Interactions Between Multiple Forms of Nuptial Feeding in the Wood Cricket Nemobius sylvestris (Bosc): Dual Spermatophores and Male Forewings


Michael R. Maxwell, Department of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, National University, 11255 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA. E-mail:


Nuptial feeding is widespread in insects, with many species showing one form of feeding. In the wood cricket Nemobius sylvestris, the male may provide multiple forms of feeding during an encounter: two kinds of edible spermatophores (microspermatophore and macrospermatophore) and forewing secretions. We examined the roles and interactions of the spermatophores and forewing exposure in the mating sequence of this species. The small microspermatophore was not found to contain sperm, whereas the larger macrospermatophore contained sperm. In mating trials, the microspermatophore may be transferred to the female early in the trial. Transfer of the microspermatophore was not a necessary prerequisite to the subsequent transfer of one or more sperm-filled macrospermatophores. Forewing exposure increased male mating success, as males with exposed forewings were more successful in transferring the macrospermatophore than males with experimentally covered forewings, both in terms of occurrence of successful transfer and the number of macrospermatophores transferred. Male mating success was very low when the male’s forewings were covered and when the male did not transfer a microspermatophore. The sperm-filled macrospermatophore may have nutritional value, as females eventually consumed all transferred macrospermatophores, and males consumed all rejected macrospermatophores. Somewhat unexpectedly, this study casts doubt on the role of the forewings in nuptial feeding. Although males with exposed forewings were more successful in macrospermatophore transfer, females actually palpated these males’ forewings less. We posit the alternative hypothesis that the forewing secretions play a role in chemical communication to the female (e.g., signaling male quality), possibly instead of female nourishment.