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Abstract

Males of many butterfly species persistently court and attempt to mate with females even if the females reject courtship. This male harassment almost certainly has negative effects on female fitness. Therefore, females have likely evolved strategies to avoid such encounters. To investigate the harassment avoidance strategy of females of the small copper butterfly, Lycaena phlaeas daimio, I observed the reactions of females to other individuals flying nearby in the field. In response to the conspecific butterflies, females closed their wings if they had previously been open and did not exhibit any action if the wings had been closed. Females that closed their open wings in response to a conspecific received fewer mating attempts than did females that held their wings open. These results indicate that the wing-closing behaviour of L. phlaeas females functions to deter male mating attempts. The wing-closing reaction occurred primarily in mated females. Because females of L. phlaeas copulate only once during their lives, this behaviour is not considered an indirect mate choice but rather an attempt to avoid persistent mating attempts (i.e. sexual harassment) by males.