Habituation of sexual response in male Heliothis moths

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18 Scopus citations


It has been generally hypothesized that habituation mediates the effects of pheromone-based disruption strategies used in the management of moth pests. The current study demonstrates that pheromone-mediated sexual response in the tobacco budworm moth, Heliothis virescens (F.) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), can in fact be modulated by conditions consistent with the production of habituation. An ethogram was used to measure response strength in a wind tunnel experiment where male moths were allowed to respond freely to one of two different blends of female pheromone in 16 trials over 4 days. Post-test measures were collected to investigate stimulus specificity and long-term effects. In conditions appropriate to the formation of habituation, habituation will develop and disrupt male sexual response to female sex pheromone. Males repeatedly exposed to plumes of synthetic pheromone blends display a habituated response lasting up to 96 h. Habituation rate and spontaneous recovery of response strength are greater with less intense stimuli. Additionally, males habituated to one blend express no habituation of sexual response when exposed to a different blend. This indicates a high degree of stimulus specificity, which could facilitate outbreeding, and that moths attend to the configuration of the pheromone blend, not simply to its elements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)180-190
Number of pages11
JournalPhysiological Entomology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Habituation
  • Heliothis virescens
  • Pheromone
  • Spontaneous recovery
  • Stimulus specificity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science


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