The aim of this study was to quantify the rate of dispersal as a response to density in the specialist tephritid fly Paroxyna plantaginis (the main seed predator on its patchily distributed host plant, Tripolium vulgare, Asteraceae). Marked flies were released at three different fly densities in artificial host patches. The individual histories of recaptures were recorded as well as migration between patches and invasion by unmarked flies. The loss of marked flies relative to initial density was analysed using maximum likelihood estimation. Females generally had the highest loss rate. When comparing a density-independent model with a density-dependent model of the loss rate, the density-dependent model won four times out of six for the females but not a single time for the males. A stronger immigration rate of females relative to males supported the suggested female-biased dispersal. This indicates a sit-and-wait strategy for the territorial males and a pre-emptive competition strategy for egg-laying substrates for the females. These results may be of general importance for non-frugivorous tephritid systems with unpredictable and almost ephemeral accessibility to host plants and with a dynamics characterised by a high turnover rate and high attack levels. The study presents a method for measuring the propensity of individuals to leave an area as a response to local density. It is further an example of the consequences individual behavioural responses may have on the population dynamics of a patchy population.