Ultrasonic courtship songs of male Asian corn borer moths assist copulation attempts by making the females motionless


Dr Ryo Nakano, RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Wako, Saitama 351-0198, Japan. Tel.: +81 48 462 1111; fax: +81 48 467 7503; e-mail: r929nakano@gmail.com


Males of the Asian corn borer moth Ostrinia furnacalis (Guenée) produce an ultrasonic courtship song of extremely low-intensity during copulation attempts. The song has been shown to significantly increase the mating success of the male; however, the mode of action of the sound in courtship remains to be resolved. Behavioural experiments using pairs with deafened females or muted males show that, without the aid of the sound, 63% of males eventually succeed in mating after several copulation attempts, whereas the remainder (37%) make repeated attempts in vain until interrupted by the escape of the female. Because few (2%) males fail to copulate when females hear the courtship song, it is evident that the song has an effect on females, promoting the success of copulation attempts. In support of this view, males produce louder songs if the first copulation attempt fails, suggesting that the males increase their sound levels to achieve successful copulation. It is suggested that the ultrasonic songs of the male render the females motionless, which is the same response as that to ultrasonic bat calls. Because even slight movements by the female can interfere with the attempt of the male to copulate, it is likely that, by making her motionless, the success rate of a single copulation attempt is increased greatly.