Host preferences in a phonotactic parasitoid of field crickets: The relative importance of host song characters

William E. Wagner, Alexandra L. Basolo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Scopus citations


1. Predators, including insect parasitoids, often eavesdrop on prey signals, and as a result, predation can have important effects on the evolution of prey signalling behaviour. 2. The phonotactic parasitoid fly, Ormia ochracea, uses the calling songs of male field crickets to locate their field crickets hosts. In the western USA, this fly parasitises the variable field cricket, Gryllus lineaticeps. Previous work with one fly population suggested that female flies, like female field crickets, preferentially orient to male songs with higher chirp rates and longer chirp durations, although a limited range of male song types was used in this previous study. The current study, with a different fly population, used field-based, two-speaker choice tests to examine: (1) the effect of male chirp rate and chirp duration on fly attraction, using a natural range of song types; and (2) the relative importance of these song types in host selection by the flies. 3. Three lines of evidence suggested that chirp rate is more important than chirp duration in host selection. (a) The flies consistently preferred higher chirp rates but only sometimes preferred longer chirp durations. (b) The flies consistently preferred higher chirp rate/shorter chirp duration songs to lower chirp rate/longer chirp duration songs. (c) Preferences for longer chirp durations could be eliminated by increasing the amplitude of the less attractive song type, while preferences for higher chirp rates could only sometimes be eliminated by increasing the amplitude of the less attractive song type. 4. Fly predation may favour lower chirp rates and shorter chirp durations in G. lineaticeps, and may have resulted in stronger selection on chirp rate than on chirp duration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)478-484
Number of pages7
JournalEcological Entomology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2007



  • Calling song
  • Eavesdropping
  • Field cricket
  • Gryllus lineaticeps
  • Host preference
  • Ormia ochracea
  • Parasitoid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Insect Science

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