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Abstract

Large males of the tarantula hawk wasp Hemipepsis ustulata appear to have an advantage in the competition for mates. Large males are more likely to acquire perch territories used to scan for incoming receptive females and territorial males appear more likely to mate than non-territorial males. In addition, among the males that do secure a mate, those that intercept a female on a territory are larger than those that do so elsewhere. Despite the mating advantages apparently enjoyed by larger males of this species, average male size has remained essentially constant over the last 25 yr. Moreover, larger males are not seen to employ certain competitive tactics that might otherwise enhance their reproductive success. Thus, larger males did not preferentially visit the most popular landmark territory compared to a site that attracted fewer visitors overall. Nor were larger males more likely to return to potential territories after marking, capture, and release, either immediately or on a subsequent day. Finally, although large males made up a significantly greater proportion of the males captured at two territories as the 2005 flight season progressed, over all the years of the study, receptive females have not been concentrated in the latter part of the flight seasons.