How do butterflies communicate with each other

Communication in the animal kingdom: butterflies call out ambiguities

The males of the butterfly native to Asia Conogethes punctiferalis emit a call with two different messages. First, they use short ultrasonic sound pulses to simulate the hunting calls of their deadly enemies, the bats - with which they frighten and scare off all fluttering butterfly men in the area. Researchers at the Japanese National Institute of Fruit Tree Science report the second phase of the call, made up of longer tone pulses, to female conspecifics in order to make them willing to mate with the message. The team is interested in the animals belonging to the common moth because they are important pests, for example on fruit trees.

The fact that butterflies with a call animate females and drive away possibly competing males at the same time is surprising when you consider the gradual evolution of the calls: First the animals developed hearing organs with which they could recognize the hunting calls of their enemies, and then later on to calls invent that were perceptible with the tympanic organs that were already in place - the butterfly ears. It is obvious that such calls can scare off males; It is more difficult to understand how a butterfly tone similar to the bat call became the call for females.

However, the females also respond to the calls with a reaction that can be interpreted as fright or initiation of a dive, the researchers describe: They spread their wings, as they would probably do in an emergency evasive maneuver in the event of a possible air attack. In fact, however, this is not a female frightening behavior, but a necessary prelude to mating: Without the spreading wings of the female, no male willing to copulate can achieve sufficiently close physical contact with the partner.