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Keywords:

  • Beauveria bassiana;
  • behavioural fever;
  • costs and benefits;
  • fungal entomopathogens;
  • immune response;
  • Musca domestica;
  • thermoregulation

1. Many ectothermic species have evolved the ability to invoke a ‘behavioural fever’ when infected with a pathogen. The relative costs and benefits of this response, however, have rarely been quantified.

2. The aim of this study was investigate the nature and consequences of behavioural fever in the house fly, Musca domestica L., in response to infection with a possible biocontrol agent, the fungal entomopathogen, Beauveria bassiana (Balsamo) Vuillemin.

3. It was found that infected flies preferred higher temperatures and allocated more effort to thermoregulation than uninfected flies. Flies could not overcome infection but the altered thermal behaviour allowed infected flies to extend their survival and to lay more eggs relative to infected flies maintained under constant conditions. However, flies allowed to fever had lower egg viability suggesting a possible cost.

4. Under the present experimental conditions, the putative costs and benefits fever balanced one another resulting in no net change in fitness. Fever did not, therefore, limit the control potential of the fungus. We discuss whether the costs and benefits of behavioural fever might differ in other ecological contexts.