In moth pheromone communication signals, both quantitative and qualitative intraspecific differences have been found across geographic regions. Such variation has generally been hypothesized to be due to selection, but evidence of genetic control of these differences is largely lacking. To explore the patterns of variation in pheromone signals, we quantified variation in the female sex pheromone blend and male responses of two closely related noctuid moth species in five different geographic regions for 2–3 consecutive years. We found significant variation in the ratios of sex pheromone blend components as well as in male response, not only between geographic regions but also within a region between consecutive years. The temporal variation was of a similar magnitude as the geographic variation. As far as we know, this is the first study reporting such temporal variation in moth chemical communication systems. The geographic variation seems to at least partly be controlled by genetic factors, and to be correlated with the quality of the local chemical environment. However, the pattern of temporal variation within populations suggests that optimization of the pheromonal signal also may be driven by within-generation physiological adjustments by the moths in response to their experience of the local chemical environment.
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Vol. 63 • No. 8