WCS 3-Sentence Science

Do Insects Think about the Future?

Wildlife Conservation Society
1 min readSep 6, 2019

August 8, 2019


Each year, Wildlife Conservation Society scientists publish more than 300 peer-reviewed studies and papers. “WCS 3-Sentence Science” is a regular tip-sheet — in bite sized helpings — of some of this published work.

Here we present work by WCS Canada’s William Halliday on egg-laying behavior in red flour beetles.

  1. Researchers looked at whether female red flour beetles (Tribolium castaneum) assess both current and future competition at sites where they lay eggs, testing the theory by manipulating both beetle density, which represented current competition, and sex ratio, which represented future competition, at laying sites.
  2. They found that the female beetles responded to both density and sex ratio: they layer fewer eggs in higher density areas and more eggs when the sex ratio was male-biased.
  3. Eggs laid at male-biased sites were more likely to develop into adults, so females laying eggs at these sites would have higher fitness than females laying eggs at female-biased sites.

Study and Journal: “Do female red flour beetles assess both current and future competition during oviposition?” from Journal of Insect Behavior
WCS Co-Author(s): William Halliday, WCS Canada

For more information, contact: Stephen Sautner, 718–220–3682, ssautner@wcs.org.

Wildlife Conservation Society

WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.