For wasps’ pheromones, quantity predicts quality

ResearchBlogging.orgDon’t tell the people behind Axe body spray, but entomologists have shown that the fertility of male Nasonia vitripennis wasps is predicted by how much sex pheromone they produce [$-a].

How many sperm a male wasp can produce turns out to be a big deal for female Nasonia wasps, because the species is haplodiploid — fertilized eggs become females, and unfertilized eggs become males. Because females are the only sex that can fly off to lay more eggs, the number of female offspring a wasp produces strongly determines her reproductive fitness. She wants, therefore, to mate with a male who can fertilize a lot of eggs, and determines who that is by smelling prospective mates.


Ruther, J., Matschke, M., Garbe, L., & Steiner, S. (2009). Quantity matters: male sex pheromone signals mate quality in the parasitic wasp Nasonia vitripennis. Proc. R. Soc. B DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2009.0738