Facultative non-mutualistic behaviour by an "Obligate" mutualist: "Cheating" by Yucca moths

A. J. Tyre, J. F. Addicott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The interaction between yucca moths (Tegeticula spp., Incurvariidae) and yuccas (Yucca spp., Agavaceae) is an obligate pollination/seed predation mutualism in which adult female yucca moths pollinate yuccas, and yucca moth larvae feed on yucca seeds. In this paper we document that individual yucca moths, which are capable of acting as mutualists, facultatively "cheat" by ovipositing in yucca pistils without attempting to transfer pollen. Additionally, a high proportion of flowers are unlikely to receive pollen even when pollination is attempted, because many yucca moths carry little or no pollen. The probability of occurrence of non-mutualistic behaviour is not affected by the amount of pollen a moth carries: moths with full pollen loads are just as likely to act non-mutualistically as moths carrying little or no pollen. We propose four hypotheses that could explain facultative non-mutualistic behaviour in yucca moths.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-175
Number of pages3
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • Cheating
  • Mutualism
  • Pollination
  • Yucca moths
  • Yuccas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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