ONH

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  • Content Slide
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    1 - Nisquallia olympica mate guarding.

    09/11/2011 Sunrise Ridge Trail, Olympic National Park, Washington

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    2 - Nisquallia olympica mate guarding.

    08/23/2010 Obstruction Point Area, Olympic National Park, Washington

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    3 - Nisquallia olympica mate guarding, the same pair as in slide 2.

    08/23/2010 Obstruction Point Area, Olympic National Park, Washington

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    4 - Nisquallia olympica mate guarding.

    08/04/2009 Obstruction Point Area, Olympic National Park, Washington

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    5 - Nisquallia olympica mate guarding.

    09/11/2011 Sunrise Ridge Trail, Olympic National Park, Washington

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    6 - Nisquallia olympica mate guarding, the same pair as in slide 4, a couple of minutes later. A Chalcid wasp, Brachymeria tegularis lands on the female to lay an egg.

    09/11/2011 Sunrise Ridge Trail, Olympic National Park, Washington

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    7 - Closeup of slide 5. Nisquallia olympica mate guarding. A Chalcid wasp, Brachymeria tegularis lands on the female to lay an egg.

    09/11/2011 Sunrise Ridge Trail, Olympic National Park, Washington

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    8 - Nisquallia olympica mate guarding. A second male is also grasping the female. Neither of the males appears to be actually mating.

    09/08/2013 Obstruction Point Road, Olympic National Park, Washington

  • Content Slide

8 - Mate guarding males sometimes lean over as if to use their antennae to sample the air near the female’s face.

Male Nisquallia exhibit mate-guarding behavior, in which a male clings to the female, even when mating is not going on. While mate guarding, males actively rock from side to side, and hold their hind legs up. In general, mate guarding in many species is thought to represent a competition between males and females. Males have better reproductive success if they can prevent a female they’ve mated with from mating with other males. Females, on the other hand, have better reproductive success if they mate with many males.

While photographing the mate-guarding pair in slides 5, 6 and 7 (cropped closeup), we accidentally documented a Chalcid wasp, Brachymeria tegularis, landing on the female. This species is a hyperparasitoid. It lays eggs on grasshoppers. The egg hatches and the larva burrows into the grasshopper, eventually attacking parasitic (or parasitoid) fly larvae already inside the grasshopper body. (Thanks to bugguide.net for the wasp ID.)

In slide 8, two males are grasping a female. Neither of the males appears to be actually mating. This behavior may be more common among flightless grasshoppers, where males have a more limited chance to find an unguarded female.

Several times, we observed males, while mate guarding, leaning over as if to reach their antennae toward the female’s face. In 2011, I captured the behavor on video. The video also shows the rocking behavior (slide 9).