Journal of Insect Behavior

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 19–33 | Cite as

Ultrasonic Signal Competition Between Male Wax Moths

  • Feng-You JiaEmail author
  • Michael D. Greenfield
  • Robert D. Collins


Pair formation in the lesser wax moth, Achroia grisella (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae), is effected by male ultrasonic signals that are attractive to receptive females within 1-2 m. The males typically aggregate in the vicinity of the larval food resource, honeybee colonies, and signal for 6-10 h each night. Females are known to choose males on a relative basis and evaluate primarily three signal characters: signal rate (SR), loudness (peak amplitude; PA), and asynchrony interval (AI), a temporal feature reflecting the time interval between signals produced by the left and right tymbals. We conducted a series of experiments to investigate whether and how A. grisella males modify their signals in the presence of neighboring signalers. When separated by <40 cm, males increase their SRs by 3-6% upon perceiving a neighbor's signals, but they do not alter their PAs or Als. Increased SRs continue for 5-10 min and are more pronounced in males that are silent at the time they perceive their neighbor. By increasing its SR, a male improves the likelihood of matching or exceeding its neighbor's SR and may thereby compete more effectively for local females. SR increases are energetically demanding, though, and their brief duration and occurrence primarily at the beginning of signaling bouts may be the most prudent allocation of a male's limited energy reserves.

Achroia grisella acoustic communication acoustic perception sexual selection signal energetics 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alexander, R. D. (1975). Natural selection and specialized chorusing behavior in acoustical insects. In Pimentel, D. (ed.), Insects, Science and Society, Academic Press, New York, pp. 35–77.Google Scholar
  2. Andersson, M. (1994). Sexual Selection, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.Google Scholar
  3. Balmford, A., Albon, S., and Blakeman, S. (1992). Correlates of male mating success and female choice in a lek-breeding antelope. Behav. Ecol. 3: 112–123.Google Scholar
  4. Clutton-Brock, T. H., Guinness, F. E., and Albon, S. D. (1982). Red Deer: Behavior and Ecology of Two Sexes, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  5. Collins, R. D., Jang, Y., Reinhold, K., and Greenfield, M. D. (1999). Quantitative genetics of ultrasonic advertisement signalling in the lesser waxmoth Achroia grisella (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae). Heredity 83: 644–651.Google Scholar
  6. Cremer, S., and Greenfield, M. D. (1998). Partitioning the components of sexual selection: Attractiveness and agonistic behaviour in male wax moths, Achroia grisella (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae). Ethology 104: 1–9.Google Scholar
  7. Darwin, C. R. (1871). The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, John Murray, London.Google Scholar
  8. Dutky, S. R., Thompson, J. V., and Cantwell, G. E. (1962). A technique for mass rearing the greater wax moth (Lepidoptera: Galleriidae). Proc. Entomol. Soc. Wash. 64: 56–58.Google Scholar
  9. Gilburn, A. S., and Day, T. H. (1994). Evolution of female choice in seaweed flies: Fisherian and good genes mechanisms operate in different populations. Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond. B 255: 159–165.Google Scholar
  10. Greenfield, M. D. (1981). Moth sex pheromones: An evolutionary perspective. Fla. Entomol. 64: 4–17.Google Scholar
  11. Greenfield, M. D. (1997). Acoustic communication in Orthoptera. In Gangwere, S. K., Muralirangan, M. C., and Muralirangan, M. (eds.), The Bionomics of Grasshoppers, Katydids and Their Kin, CAB International, Wallingford, UK, pp. 197–230.Google Scholar
  12. Greenfield, M. D., and Coffelt, J. A. (1983). Reproductive behaviour of the lesser wax moth, Achroia grisella (Pyralidae: Galleriinae): Signalling, pair formation, male interactions, and mate guarding. Behaviour 84: 287–315.Google Scholar
  13. Hedwig,B. (1990). Modulation of auditory responsiveness in stridulating grasshoppers. J. Comp. Physiol. A 167: 847–856.Google Scholar
  14. Henson, O. W., Jr. (1965). Activity and function of middle-ear muscles in echolocating bats. J. Physiol. 180: 871–887.Google Scholar
  15. Jang, Y., and Greenfield, M. D. (1996). Ultrasonic communication and sexual selection in wax moths: Female choice based on energy and asynchrony of male signals. Anim. Behav. 51: 1095–1106.Google Scholar
  16. Jang, Y., and Greenfield, M. D. (1998). Absolute versus relative measurements of sexual selection: Assessing the contributions of ultrasonic signal characters to mate attraction in lesser wax moths, Achroia grisella (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae). Evolution 52: 1383–1393.Google Scholar
  17. Jang, Y., Collins, R. D., and Greenfield, M. D. (1997). Variation and repeatability of ultrasonic sexual advertisement signals in Achroia grisella (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae). J. Insect Behav. 10: 87–98.Google Scholar
  18. Künike,G. (1930). Zur Biologie der kleinenWachsmotte, Achroea grisella Fabr. Z. Angewandte Entomol. 16: 304–356.Google Scholar
  19. Møller, A. P. (1988). Badge size in the house sparrow Passer domesticus: Effect of intra-and inter-sexual selection. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 22: 373–378.Google Scholar
  20. Narins, P.M. (1992). Reduction of tympanic membrane displacement during vocalization of the arboreal frog, Eleutherodactylus coqui. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 91: 3551–3557.Google Scholar
  21. Reinhold, K., Greenfield, M. D., Jang, Y., and Broce, A. (1998). Energetic cost of sexual attractiveness: Ultrasonic advertisement in wax moths. Anim. Behav. 55: 905–913.Google Scholar
  22. Silberglied, R. E. (1977). Communication in the Lepidoptera. In Sebeok, T. A. (ed.), How Animals Communicate, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, pp. 362–402.Google Scholar
  23. Snedden, W. A., Tosh, C. R., and Ritchie, M. G. (1994). The ultrasonic mating signal of the male lesser wax moth. Physiol. Entomol. 19: 367–372.Google Scholar
  24. Spangler, H. G., Greenfield, M. D., and Takessian, A. (1984). Ultrasonic mate calling in the lesser wax moth. Physiol. Entomol. 9: 87–95.Google Scholar
  25. Wagner, W. E., Jr. (1989). Graded aggressive signals in Blanchard's cricket frog: Vocal response to opponent proximity and size. Anim. Behav. 38: 1025–1038.Google Scholar
  26. Walker, T. J. (1983). Diel patterns of calling in nocturnal Orthoptera. In Gwynne, D. T., and Morris, G. K. (eds.), Orthopteran Mating Systems: Sexual Competition in a Diverse Group of Insects, Westview Press, Boulder, CO, pp. 45–72.Google Scholar
  27. West-Eberhard, M. J. (1984). Sexual selection, competitive communication and species-specific signals in insects. In Lewis, T. (ed.), Insect Communication, Academic Press, New York, pp. 283–324.Google Scholar
  28. Wilkinson, G. S., Presgraves, D. C., and Crymes, L. (1998). Male eye span in stalk-eyed flies indicates genetic quality by meiotic drive suppression. Nature 391: 276–279.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Feng-You Jia
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael D. Greenfield
    • 1
  • Robert D. Collins
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EntomologyUniversity of KansasLawrence

Personalised recommendations