Mating behaviour and vibrational communication of the meadow spittlebug Philaenus spumarius


Abstract: The mating behaviour of the meadow spittlebug Philaenus spumarius, vector of the Gram-negative bacterium, Xylella fastidiosa, was investigated to determine the role of substrate-borne vibrational signals in intra-specific communication and pair formation. Vibrational signals were recorded from different plants with a laser vibrometer. The signalling activity of the insects did not change throughout the day and ‘call and fly’ behaviour was observed. Pair formation began with the spontaneous emission of signals either by female or male. The calling signals consisted of a series of harmonics. After a female call or its response, the male emitted a courtship phrase characterized by two elements: harmonics and pulses. Female vibrational signals were also emitted in response to male signals. The female response was a harmonic signal that was emitted in alternation to the male signals thus establishing a vibrational duet. The female remained stationary throughout the process of pair formation, while the male alternated searching with pauses. The male-female duet eventually led to localization of the female and copulation.

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