Mating and Sexual Communication by Steinernema carpocapsae (Nemata: Steinernematidae)

  • Edwin E. Lewis
  • Bruno Barbarosa
  • Randy Gaugler
Keywords: behavior, entomopathogenic nematode, insect, mating, parasite, pheromone, reproductive isolation, steinernema


Entomopathogenic nematodes are lethal insect parasites that reproduce exclusively inside their hosts in nature. Infection decisions made by the free-living infective-stage juveniles have an impact on reproductive success, but it is likely that mating decisions are made by adults while inside their host. We investigated sexual communication between male and female adult stages of Steinernema carpocapsae (Rhabditida: Steinernematidae) to assess whether mating is chemically mediated during the adult stage or results from incidental encounters between adults inside the insect host. To assess chemical communication, we measured the behavioral response of adult male S. carpocapsae to several different potential sources of chemical information. Male S. carpocapsae responded to virgin females only and were not influenced by mated conspecific females, conspecific males, or heterospecific females. These results show that species-specific communication takes place between adult entomopathogenic nematodes within the host cadaver just prior to mating.