Swarm Site Fidelity in the Sex Role-Reversed Dance Fly Empis borealis

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In the dance fly species Empis borealis (L.), females (1–40) gather to swarm at landmarks (swarm markers, like trees and bushes), and males carrying an insect prey visit these swarms for mating. We noticed earlier that some swarm sites were used for several years and that they appeared to be frequented by a similar number of swarming females in each year, although the numbers of females varied greatly among swarm sites and certain sites attracted more swarming individuals than others. To explore swarm site fidelity in this mating system, in 1993 we monitored the same swarm sites that we studied in 1989, addressing the questions, Would the same swarm sites still attract the same number of females and males after 4 years? and Why do some swarm sites attract more displaying females than others? The number of females swarming at the different markers in 1993 was approximately the same as 4 years earlier. Some of these swarm sites are known to have been used for 18 years. The swarm sites with the largest number of flies had a high sun exposure during the day and were found at coniferous swarm marker trees and in a mixed forest habitat. A swarm site with few females attending and with a low amount of insolation during the day can be predicted to be abandoned as a swarming site soon. Empis borealis swarm sites thus persist over many years and are attended by a similar number of individuals each year. To our knowledge, such site fidelity has not been demonstrated for any swarming insect species earlier.

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