TM Latty, MJL Magrath, MRE Symonds (2009) Harem size and oviposition behaviour in a polygynous bark beetle. Ecological Entomology 34 (2009), 562-568.

What’s it about?

The invasive bark beetle, Ips grandicollis, has an interesting mating system in that males defend access to harems of up to 7 females who burrow in galleries under the bark of pine trees. What do females get out of this? We examined patterns of egg-laying behaviour in females in response to the size of harems they are in. We found that females in harems of 4 lay the most eggs – suggesting there is some benefit to them of reproducing in harems (perhaps to do with male attendance and removal of frass from egg galleries.

What’s the story behind it?

I met Tanya Latty at the 2006 International Society for Behavioural Ecology conference in Tours, France. She was the only person presenting on bark beetles (she was doing her PhD at the time on the mountain pine beetle), so we quickly struck up a friendship. I invited her to come to Australia, and collaborate on a project looking at reproductive behaviour in Ips grandicollis. I was keen to do this because I was working on these beetles, but my initial project (trying to look at pheromone variation across populations) was not turning out as I hoped (a frustrating collaboration again, with a chemist), and I was very uncertain about what I could do in a more behavioural ecology mode. Tanya, readily accepted my invitation, and we ended up with a couple of  publications out of a 2 week stay, which was certainly a good return. Tanya obviously liked her visit. She moved to Australia a couple of years later.

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