As Valentine’s Day rolls around, a frenzied celebration of love grips us. Wooing and winning take center stage as lovers come out to play, booking cozy restaurants and spending time on activities to heighten attraction. These snuggles bring smiles to almost every face; that is, unless you’ve been burned by cupid like Lady Gaga, and caught in a bad romance.
Like the famed pop diva, not every date is roses and candy, especially if you’re an insect. The next time you’re feeling blue, look at our six-legged friends, and you might not feel so bad about your love life.
Follow my lead
Dancing With The Stars might be a popular show, but it could be a lot more interesting if they’d pair the dancers with a preying mantis. The hypothesis that the female rips the head from the male during copulation is not entirely true; it all depends on how hungry she is. If not fed prior to her date, she might tear the male apart, to nibble on as a post-coital snack.
To overcome this unfortunate fate, the Chinese preying mantis waltzes the female around, hoping to turn her thoughts from dinner to delight. If he’s light on his feet, the male escapes to woo another lady, but if he trips up, he won’t be returning for a reunion show.
She’s just not into you
Picking up on her mood is hazardous for ground beetles, who say no with a chemical weapon. When bugged by amorous suitors, less inclined females rebuff would-be mates with an anti-aphrodisiac, methacrylic acid, which knocks males out for hours. Stunned and helpless, the males serve as a warning to others.
Date my daughter, or else
Blind dates can be hit or miss, but if you’re a honey bee, they’re downright life threatening. In a typical small hive, one queen oversees twenty thousand female workers. Males, called drones, are few – up to 200. Though outnumbered, young drones’ lives are cushy, tended by workers, pampered for the day their services are needed.
When that day dawns, drones are offered a choice: go forth and mate, or stay here and die. On their own, they gather in groups, lounging around a bee equivalent of a pickup bar until young queens take flight. When this happens, males launch, streaking after them to mate.
If growing up an idle boy toy sounds grand, consider the bride; queens hatch with an attitude. Those emerging first destroy any un-hatched queens, fight rival royal siblings to the death, contemplate matricide, then take off on a mating flight. They say personality is everything.
If males are lucky and catch her, the job is a death sentence; unable to disengage, they break off their appendage and plunge earthward, dying. She sails on, entertaining drone after drone until sated.
Despite these cautionary tales, love is still a many splendored thing. But just in case, remember to pick up the roses and chocolate.
This post was previously published in the Longmont Ledger.
- Zoologger: Well-fed black widows promise safe sex (newscientist.com)
- The 8 Most Romantic Creatures In The Animal Kingdom (neatorama.com)
- Some Interesting Facts About Honeybees (amog.com)