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Abstract

The behaviour of female Necrophorus vespilloides whose clutches had been removed partially or completely was tested in laboratory experiments. If the reproductive activities can proceed without disturbances, the first larvae reach the carcass 56 h after the start of egg-laying. If no larvae come to the carcass, all females resume egg-laying within five days. The second clutch (‘replacement clutch’) is, on average, smaller than the first one. If the eggs from the replacement clutches are also removed, the females produce new clutches until no more carrion is available.

One larva coming to the carcass prevents production of replacement clutches with 20 % of the females. 5 and 10 larvae prevent a higher proportion of females from producing new clutches; the reaction of the female depends on the size of the carcass offered and on the number of larvae present on the carcass. There are two behavioural options for the females with respect to time when egg-laying is resumed. Some females produce a replacement clutch while the larvae are still at the carcass; other females wait until the larvae leave the carcass. In the presence of only a few larvae at the carcass most females show both forms of behaviour under experimental conditions.