On Research and Entomological Education IV: Quantifying Mate Search in a Perfect Insect- Seeking True Facts and Insight (Coleoptera: Lampyridae, Photinus)

James E. Lloyd


Male Photinus collustrans LeConte fireflies fly over their grassland habitats flashing and seeking their flightless females. I followed individual males, measured, and took note of various aspects of their behavior. Then, from a sample of 255 male runs, with a total distance of 13.9 miles and 10,306 flashes, various sets of these males, those seemingly directed by other than search flight-plans, were removed to leave a sample to characterize "pure" search flight. Fireflies are good subjects for students to study foraging ecology and sexual selection, and from studies of common grassland fireflies it will be clear to students that even simple behavior by males of a single species, under seemingly uncomplicated and homogeneous conditions, can be complex, but provide opportunity for theoretical and empirical exploration. Among factors identified here as influencing male mate-seeking behavior were ambient temperature, ambient light level, and time of night. Other influencing factors, enigmas, and student explorations are indicated.

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