Mating behaviour of female Tuta absoluta (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae): polyandry increases reproductive output
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Tuta absoluta (Meyrick) is an important pest of tomato. Mass trapping of males has seldom proved an effective control measure, probably due to the pest"s reproductive biology. There are few studies on female mating behaviour. For this reason, this study aimed to determine female mating frequency and
its effects on reproductive output and female longevity; the effects of male mating status on female reproductive output and longevity and the fate of the spermatophore inside the bursa copulatrix. The studied population of T. absoluta mated only once a day at the beginning of the photophase, females remated frequently and can be classified as polyandrous. The refractory period of both T. absoluta males and females was very short and was not observed in many cases. The lack of refractory period could be due to the female"s rapid metabolism of the spermatophore thus allowing the female to reduce the intermating interval and mate again. Remating had direct benefits for T. absoluta females increasing their fecundity, fertility and longevity. These benefits were greater when females could remate to virgin males instead of to the same male. In this species, therefore, polyandry has direct benefits for the female. The occurrence of polyandry together with other known or unknown reasons can explain the failure of control methods based on pheromones in the open greenhouses in some tomato-growing areas.