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The castniid palm borer, Paysandisia archon (Burmeister) (Lepidoptera: Castniidae), is a South American moth that in the last ten years has become a major pest of palm trees in the Mediterranean region. Current knowledge on the reproductive behavior of this diurnal moth suggests the importance of both visual and chemical cues, in particular the production of a male pheromone emitted during a specific scratching behavior. Male-produced scents have diverse functions in lepidopteran sexual communication but generally act during courtship behavior, leading to complex, stereotyped courtship sequences. As a first step to understand the cues involved in mating behavior and the role of male scents in male mating success, we quantified sequences of P. archon courtship behavior using video filming. To distinguish behaviors leading to an approach of both partners from those involved in short-range courtship, sequences were divided into “approach” and “interaction” phases. Quantifications and analyses were first made by NPMANOVA analysis of behavioral event frequencies, followed by flowchart construction using transition matrix probabilities. In 90% of the observations, courting activities led to copulation, but successful sequences were highly variable and could be divided into two categories, “rapid” and “prolonged” courtship sequences. In both categories, approaches were performed by males but depended strongly on female movements, especially on female flights. The significant behavioral differences were observed after the first contact (i.e., interaction phase) where, in rapid sequences, males generally acceded to copulation without displaying scratching behavior. Conversely, in prolonged sequences, the female expressed evading behavior and male scratching frequency increased. The possible roles of male scent emission in female mate choice and the importance of visual cues in the mating behavior of P. archon are discussed.
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