Optimal male and female mating rates rarely coincide. Males often shift the rate in their favor by either increased signaling and by overcoming female resistance to copulation. The concept of sensory exploitation posits that males produce signals that mimic naturally selected benefits and so deceitfully attract females. However, males also have to overcome female resistance to actual copulation. Males may do so by copulating during situations when the female's ability to resist is decreased because of competing naturally selected demands. Males of the common bedbug, Cimex lectularius, an obligate blood feeder, mate at a rate, and in a manner that is harmful to females. Females have to feed regularly to produce eggs, and during feeding female body volume increases by 300%. Choice trials using unfed and either fed or experimentally enlarged but unfed females showed that the increased postfeeding body volume of females attracted more male mating attempts, strongly reduced female resistance to male mating attempts and resulted in a net increase in female mating rate. Our results, therefore, suggest that males have increased mating success in a situation that females cannot avoid because it is naturally selected. Such “situation exploitation” of low resistance may be a common phenomenon.
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Vol. 63 • No. 1