1. The effects of an aggregation pheromone on individual behaviour and food web interactions were investigated in two ecological communities, using Drosophila melanogaster and D. simulatis as focal species.
2. Fruit substrates with aggregation pheromone were significantly more attractive to adult D. melanogaster and D. simulans than control fruit substrates, and the response was positively dose dependent. Competing species and natural enemies were also significantly attracted to substrates with the aggregation pheromone of D. melanogaster and D. simulans.
3. Significantly more eggs were deposited on pheromone-treated fruits than on control fruits, and the microdistribution of eggs within fruits was correlated to the microdistribution of the pheromone. The aggregation pheromone induced more females to share the breeding site.
4. The extremely high densities of fruit flies in the large aggregations appeared to reduce the oviposition rate of females. Physical interactions with conspecific and heterospecifics were frequently observed in the aggregations, and often led to patch leaving of the fruit flies.
5. Competition for food among larvae occurred at high densities and parasitism was density dependent. Aggregation pheromones can be directly responsible for these patterns through their effects on the con- and heterospecific behaviour.
6. The combined results show that aggregation pheromones affect a multitude of aspects in the ecology of interacting animals. The importance of incorporating the communication signals in ecological theory of aggregations is discussed.