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In insects, the outcome of intraspecific competition for food during development depends primarily upon larval density and larval sex, but effects will also depend on the particular trait under consideration and the species under study. Experimental manipulations of larval densities of a Madeiran population of the speckled wood butterfly Pararge aegeria confirmed that intraspecific competition affected growth. As densities increased P. aegeria adults were smaller and larval development periods were longer. Sexes responded differently to rearing density. Females were more adversely affected by high density than males, resulting in females having smaller masses at pupation. Survivorship was significantly higher for larvae reared at low densities. No density effect on adult sex ratios was observed. Intraspecific competition during the larval stage would appear to carry a higher cost for females than males. This may confer double disadvantage since females are dependent on their larval derived resources for reproduction as they have little opportunity to accumulate additional resources as adults. This suggests that shortages of larval food could affect fecundity directly. Males, however, may be able to compensate for a small size by feeding as adults and/or by altering their mate location tactics.