Green crabs, Carcinus maenas, exposed to dilute seawater (e.g., 5 ppt salinity, approximately 150 mOsm/kg) have hemolymph levels of methyl farnesoate (MF) that are up to 10-fold higher than animals in isosmotic seawater (27 ppt, approximately 800 mOsm/kg). In this paper, we examine aspects of osmotic and ionic stress to identify factors involved in elevating MF levels. MF levels did not rise after exposure to concentrated seawater, so only hypoosmotic stress elevates MF. MF levels rose in animals exposed to dilute seawater containing mannitol to make it isosmotic, indicating that the hypoosmotic rise in MF is due to decreased ion concentrations. Individual ions were investigated by exposing crabs either to isosmotic seawater with low concentrations of an ion or to dilute seawater with high concentrations of an ion. Ca(2+) and Mg(2+) in combination affected MF levels. Finally, we found that the increase in MF levels was accelerated when hemolymph osmolality was precociously lowered by partially replacing hemolymph with deionized water prior to transferring animals to dilute seawater. Thus, the 6-8 h delay between exposing crabs to dilute sea water and observing an increase in MF appears to reflect the time needed for specific hemolymph ions to decrease below a threshold concentration.