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Post-mating enhancement of fecundity in female Lygus hesperus


Colin S. Brent, USDA Arid Land Agricultural Research Center, 21881 North Cardon Lane, Maricopa, Arizona 85238, U.S.A. Tel.: +1 520 316 6337; e-mail:


Although mated females of the western tarnished plant bug Lygus hesperus Knight are known to produce more eggs than virgins, the nature of the inducing stimuli and the specific changes occurring in the female require additional elucidation. Compared with virgin females isolated from males, those exposed to male precopulatory behaviours produce similar numbers of eggs, whereas inseminated females produce 50% more during the observation period. Although the quantity of seminal fluids received by a female does not influence egg number, mating twice within a 10-day span causes a 16% increase in fecundity, on average. Females mating more than twice during the same period do not exhibit additional increases in egg number. Because virgin females contain more chorionated eggs than are laid, mating appears to enhance the rate of oviposition. However, to achieve a sustained increase in fecundity, an augmented rate of oocyte maturation would also be required. Male-derived spermatophores lack substantive quantities of nutrients that might otherwise have enhanced female fecundity. The total amounts of carbohydrate, protein and lipid, as well as eight essential minerals transferred by the male, are insufficient for producing even a single egg, and the female has already produced a large number of chorionated oocytes before she mates. Collectively, the data suggest that seminal fluid contains one or more activational molecules, such as a peptide, which triggers an increase in egg deposition. A prolonged increase in oviposition rate may be achieved through multiple matings to ensure a supply of sperm or to offset the degradation of the putative activational factor.