Re-examining the relationship between sexual maturation and age of response to methyl eugenol in males of the oriental fruit fly


*Correspondence: T. E. Shelly, USDA-APHIS, 41-650 Ahiki Street, Waimanalo, HI 96795, USA. E-mail:


Males of the oriental fruit fly, Bactrocera dorsalis (Hendel) (Diptera: Tephritidae), are strongly attracted to, and feed voraciously on, methyl eugenol (ME) and use metabolites of this chemical to synthesize their sex pheromone. Previously, Wong et al. (1989) proposed that Bdorsalis males were attracted to ME even before attaining sexual maturity. However, their interpretation is possibly confounded by the fact that, in monitoring age-related mating readiness, males were presented with equal-aged females. As a result, if females mature more slowly than males, the age of male sexual maturation may have been overestimated, which may have accounted for the discrepancy observed between male age of ME responsiveness and mating activity. Here, we re-examined the relationship between male age and mating readiness by comparing male mating activity when presented with same-aged females vs. sexually mature females. In addition, we measured the age-dependent response of Bdorsalis males to ME by recording (i) capture in ME-baited traps, and (ii) feeding duration on ME-containing paper discs. Our data support the conclusion of Wong et al. (1989) that Bdorsalis males show attraction to, and feed on, ME before attaining sexual maturity, but suggest that a marked difference in ME response and mating activity exists over a shorter age interval than indicated by Wong et al. (1989). Early attraction to, but not ingestion of, ME was related to accelerated sexual maturation. Unexpectedly, ingestion of ME by sexually immature males did not boost their mating success in trials conducted 10 days after feeding on the lure.