Hybrids from crosses between populations of the flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum, express varying degrees of inviability and morphological abnormalities. The proportion of allopatric population hybrids exhibiting these negative hybrid phenotypes varies widely, from 3% to 100%, depending upon the pair of populations crossed. We crossed three populations and measured two fitness components, fertility and adult offspring numbers from successful crosses, to determine how genes segregating within populations interact in inter-population hybrids to cause the negative phenotypes. With data from crosses of 40 sires from each of three populations to groups of five dams from their own and two divergent populations, we estimated the genetic variance and covariance for breeding value of fitness between the intra- and inter-population backgrounds and the sire × dam population interaction variance. The latter component of the variance in breeding values estimates the change in genic effects between backgrounds owing to epistasis. Interacting genes with a positive effect, prior to fixation, in the sympatric background but a negative effect in the hybrid background cause reproductive incompatibility in the Dobzhansky–Muller speciation model. Thus, the sire × dam population interaction provides a way to measure the progress towards speciation of genetically differentiating populations on a trait by trait basis using inter-population hybrids.