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Moth Mating: Modeling Female Pheromone Calling and Male Navigational Strategies to Optimize Reproductive Success

Stepien, Tracy L. and Zmurchok, Cole and Hengenius, James B. and Caja Rivera, Rocío Marilyn and D’Orsogna, Maria R. and Lindsay, Alan E. (2020) Moth Mating: Modeling Female Pheromone Calling and Male Navigational Strategies to Optimize Reproductive Success. Applied Sciences, 10 (18). p. 6543. ISSN 2076-3417

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Male and female moths communicate in complex ways to search for and to select a mate. In a process termed calling, females emit small quantities of pheromones, generating plumes that spread in the environment. Males detect the plume through their antennae and navigate toward the female. The reproductive process is marked by female choice and male–male competition, since multiple males aim to reach the female but only the first can mate with her. This provides an opportunity for female selection on male traits such as chemosensitivity to pheromone molecules and mobility. We develop a mathematical framework to investigate the overall mating likelihood, the mean first arrival time, and the quality of the first male to reach the female for four experimentally observed female calling strategies unfolding over a typical one-week mating period. We present both analytical solutions of a simplified model as well as results from agent-based numerical simulations. Our findings suggest that, by adjusting call times and the amount of released pheromone, females can optimize the mating process. In particular, shorter calling times and lower pheromone titers at onset of the mating period that gradually increase over time allow females to aim for higher-quality males while still ensuring that mating occurs by the end of the mating period.


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Item Type: Article
Status: Published
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Stepien, Tracy L.
Zmurchok, Cole
Hengenius, James
Caja Rivera, Rocío Marilyn
D’Orsogna, Maria R.
Lindsay, Alan E.
Date: 18 September 2020
Date Type: Publication
Journal or Publication Title: Applied Sciences
Volume: 10
Number: 18
Publisher: MDPI AG
Page Range: p. 6543
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.3390/app10186543
Schools and Programs: School of Public Health > Epidemiology
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: moth mating, Lepidoptera, agent-based model, diffusion, pheromone, calling strategies
ISSN: 2076-3417
Official URL:
Funders: National Science Foundation, Army Research Office, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
Article Type: Research Article
Date Deposited: 25 May 2021 19:42
Last Modified: 25 May 2021 19:42


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