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The gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) is a defoliating pest native to Europe and invasive to North America. The gypsy moth is subject to depressed mating success in low density populations, which may restrict spread of the forest pest. Research focusing on gypsy moth density as it relates to mating behavior has often used counts of males caught in pheromone-baited delta traps as a proxy to estimate the probability of female mating success. The purpose of this project was to determine whether pheromone trap counts provide accurate estimates of female mating success probability, by comparing data gathered from pheromone-baited delta traps to data gathered on mating success of tethered females. To determine the relationship between number of males caught in delta traps and the probability of successful mating, male catch counts in traps were compared to mating success of tethered females in a mass male release experiment. The relationship between delta trap catch of males and female mating success was quantified using a Bayesian framework, which explicitly incorporates uncertainties in the model. Vegetative cover in the study plots was reduced to a single measure through principal components analysis and included as an independent factor in the model. The data suggest that delta traps reduce the male’s ability to find a female by 67%; thus, results garnered from delta trap catch counts tend to underestimate the underlying ability of males to locate and mate with females. Thick understory vegetation further reduced the male’s ability to locate a female, and further reduced the effectiveness of delta traps. Future studies that seek to use counts of males in pheromone-baited traps as a proxy for mating success should consider using an adjustment factor to equate the two methods of quantifying reproductive behavior in the gypsy moth.

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Subject Major(s)



entomology, ecology, gypsy moth, lymantria dispar, moth, insect, population ecology, Bayesian, invasion, invasion ecology, pest management, mating success, mating ability


Biology | Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | Entomology | Forest Management | Population Biology

Current Academic Year


Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Derek M. Johnson


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A Comparison of Two Methods of Quantifying Mating Success in Low Density Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar) Populations