Onion fly, Delia antiqua, oviposition and mating as influenced by insect age and dosage of male reproductive tract extract (Diptera: Anthomyiidae)

Joseph L. Spencer, Marco P. Candolfi, James E. Keller, James R. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One hundred percent of virgin female onion flies, Delia antiqua, receiving ≥1/20 of a male equivalent of an aqueous extract of mature male reproductive tract remained unmated in the presence of males and began laying unfertilized eggs at a normally mated rate of about 20 eggs/female/day. The 50% behavioral response (BR50) fell between 1/40 and 1/20 of a male equivalent. Sex peptide responses are not always all-or-none. Some females receiving extract at ≤1/40 male equivalent oviposited at an intermediate rate. Moreover, at low sex peptide dosages, some females were fully activated ovipositionally but were receiptive to mating. A low level of sex peptide was present in 1-day-old males. Sex peptide titer rose with age until plateauing by 6 days posteclosion. Males began mating at 3 days, when they first had ample mature sperm; 50% of 6-day-old males mated. The mean number of females inseminated per male exposed to an excess of virgin females over 24 h was 4.3±0.6 (±SE). Presence of mature eggs was not always a prerequisite for mating, although probability of insemination was correlated with egg maturation. One-day-old preovipositional females receiving 1/20 of a male equivalent of extract began ovipositing when they had mature eggs at 5-6 days old. Therefore, sex peptide may act early and permanently or have a long half-life and affect behaviors once females reach sexual maturity. Male flies provide females with an excess of sex peptide in many cases. D. antiqua males transferred ca. 5-10 times more sex peptide than necessary to activate females fully. We suggest this excess is related to the speed of female response. It is yet unclear whether sex peptide potency or titer in Diptera has become exaggerated by intra- or intersexual selection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)617-635
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Insect Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • individual variation
  • mating
  • mating inhibition
  • monogamy
  • oviposition
  • paragonial (accessory) glands
  • sex peptide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science


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