CACTOBLASTIS CACTORUM (Lepidoptera: pyralidae): observations of Courtship and mating behaviors at two locations on the gulf coast of florida

  • Stephen D. Hight
  • Stephanie Bloem
  • Kenneth A. Bloem
  • James E. Carpenter


Cactoblastis cactorum (Berg) has become an invasive pest of Opuntia spp. along the coastal areas of southeastern United States from the panhandle of Florida to South Carolina. Spread of this insect into cactus dominated natural areas of the United States and Mexico and into agricultural opuntia fields of Mexico is raising concerns within international governments and conservation organizations. Interest is growing in using the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) to manage C. cactorum populations. Information on courtship and mating behaviors of this insect is important in the development and application of SIT. We conducted mating table studies and determined that this moth exhibits simple rather than elaborate mating behaviors and that courtship and mating take place briefly during morning twilight. Typically, females initiate calling, males respond to females, and copulation are complete before sunrise. Successfully mated females attract males within a short period (mean of 5.2 min), while unsuccessful females continue calling for about 40 minutes. Mating pairs remain in copula for a mean of 31.8 min. Generally, mated females are busy ovipositing the first few nights after mating, not exhibiting additional mating behaviors. A release of marked males revealed that males stay near the release site and can be recovered and identified for subsequent population estimate studies. This study on courtship/mating behavior is helpful to the ongoing C. cactorum research to develop a successful SIT program, identify the female calling pheromone, improve monitoring traps, and develop a technique to estimate adult moth population abundance.

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