In contrast to most other North American fireflies that use flash dialogs for courtship, males of Phausis reticulata Say (Coleoptera: Lampyridae) (Fender 1966), often called blue ghost fireflies, glow as they fly slowly over the forest floor searching for flightless, neotenic females that are likewise bioluminescent. Recently, these Blue Ghost firefly displays have become increasingly popular as ecotourist attractions. Nevertheless, surprisingly little work has been done on P. reticulata courtship and mating behavior, and little is known of female oviposition patterns. Extensive field observations were conducted at 2 locations in Tennessee USA, leading to the description of new categories of male mate-searching search behaviors and nightly display activities. Spectrophotometric measures of bioluminescence were similar in both sexes (λ max = 552 nm). There was a 3-fold variation in female body size, and size was correlated to the number of dorsal photic organs (3 to 9). Field experiments suggested that, in addition to their courtship glows, P. reticulata females might also emit a sex pheromone. Males were more likely to approach artificial lures that had a greater number of female-like light spots. Mean copulation duration was 7.9 ± SE 1.3 min and females oviposited an average clutch size of 31 eggs (n = 3; range 27–37). Females guard their eggs and this is described for the first time in any lampyrid. We present photographs of eggs and first instar larvae. These results indicate that the courtship signaling and mating biology of P. reticulata is more complex than previously thought, and we suggest future research.
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Vol. 97 • No. 4