A journey into the eyes and mind of a naturalist.

Insect Sex

Sex!  It’s taboo to talk about and yet it absolutely everywhere around us.  The world we know and love would not be without sex.  Sexual reproduction revolutionized life on Earth when it evolved about 2 billion years ago.  The act of sex creates a shuffling of the versions of gene, or alleles, within a population to create new combinations that did not exist in either parent.  This great shuffling of genetic information leads to new shapes and forms within the population and ultimately new species.  Allow this process to repeat for a couple billion years and you arrive where we are today, surrounded by sex.

We I mean surrounded by sex I mean it.  Flowers, as I have been documenting in my other posts, are simply the reproductive organs of angiosperms.   This means that a pollen allergy is really an allergy to plant sperm.  Listening to birds or frogs singing/calling is effectively foreplay as the male is calling for a mate. Sex drives life.

Insect sex is very similar to other animals.  Sperm must meet egg and in the winged insect that happens internally.  In the non-winged insects sex occurs in a much more primitive external method using spermatophores, a process I will not describe.

 

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7 Spotted Tiger Beetles

Internal fertilization is achieved when the male inserts his aedeagus, or penis, into the female.  In some species the aedeagus is enhanced with a teloscoping endophalus that litterally extends like a telescope.

 

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Ladybird Beetles

In beetle and other more terrestrial insects the male mounts the female.  The process of mating makes the pair vulnerable to attack from predators as their wings are immobilized.

Many insects have elaborate mating rituals.  Crickets call at a specfic volume and frequency.  Some insects dance, putting on the move in just the right way.  One of the most unique methods is the firefly, blinking a specific code and color to attract a mate.

 

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Fireflies

Insects with more delicate wings cannot afford to damage their wings during mating.  To overcome this there are several approaches.  One common approach involves the male and female to join abdomen to abdomen.

The skipper butterflies below quickly flew away after I took the picture.  This means the male in the rear was forced to fly backwards!

 

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Skipper Butterflies

 

Crane flies are amongst the most delicate insects in my yard.  They also use the tail to tail method.

 

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Crane Flies

Amongst the most bizarre of the wingted insect mating behavior is the dragonflies.  The male uses claspers that attach behind the females head.  This approach esure stability during flight and success in mating.

 

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Dragonflies

So next time you are outside on a summer night listening to the crickets think about what you are actually listening to; the creation of the next generation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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