BASINSKY, G.*; ROSADO, M.; MOOSMAN, P. R. Jr.; CRATSLEY, C. K.; Fitchburg State College: Photinus ignitus male courtship behavior and Photuris predation in response to virtual fireflies.
Photinus fireflies (Coleoptera: Lampyridae) use bioluminescent flashes in courtship displays. Flying males produce spontaneous patrolling flashes while perched females respond preferentially based on species-specific flash characteristics. Often, courtships include multiple rival males competing for access to a single female. In addition Photuris fireflies prey on male Photinus. Thus, flashing males run the risk of attracting both competitors and predators. We tested this possibility in Photinus ignitus by comparing firefly flash activity in response to simulated flashes from solitary males, solitary females, courting pairs, and a control condition with no flash activity. Four wooden disks equipped with Virtual Firefly Instruments (VFIs) were used to simulate these potential courtship scenarios at Dexter Drumlin, Lancaster, Massachusetts. We found that treatments with flashing VFIs received more visits, and a higher rate of flashing, from male P. ignitus than the control treatment; however male activity did not differ across experimental treatments. Photuris predators preferentially visited treatments with flashing VFIs; however typically did not produce more flashes at those sites, or distinguish between males, females or courting pairs as potential prey. These results suggest that courtship flashes of P. ignitus males attract both competitors and predators, and predatory Photuris are also attracted to solitary P. ignitus females. We conclude that the costs of male-male competition and predation should select for courtship strategies that reduce these risks.