When it comes to us humans, our mating ritual is relatively straightforward. But in the insect community, mating rituals vary tremendously from species to species. Most people are probably familiar with the fact that monogamy is not valued among most insect species; instead, most insect species copulate as often as possible and with as many different partners as possible in a frantic effort to pass on their genes. For many insect groups, the physiological ability to mate and reproduce only lasts for a very short span of time, making monogamous relationships a waste of time. However, monogamy is practiced by some insect species, though not very many. For these insects, monogamous sexual relationships ultimately promote the survival of their species more so than polygamous sexual relationships.
For the vast majority of insects, the larval stage is the longest period of life. It is during this stage that larval insects eat, and consequently, grow. An insect’s adult life is dedicated to reproduction, and most insects seek mating opportunities until they die. Termites are unique insects when it comes to reproduction. Termites live in colonies that are mostly inhabited by workers and soldiers with no reproductive organs. Therefore, the queen termite is constantly producing offspring with the king, and both maintain a monogamous relationship until one or both of them dies. Similar to termites, Bess beetles dwell within rotting wood and maintain monogamous sexual relationships in order to provide their offspring with the care they require. Other insects, like many wasp and bee species, practice monogamy for a time, but not for life. When it comes to carpenter bees, male and female sexual partners live together for a time. This monogamous relationship works well, as the female builds a nest while her male partner keeps watch over her and the nest. Also, male mud dauber wasps keep watch over the nest while his female partner forages away from the nest. Carpenter bee queens also handle foraging duties. When it comes to most bee and wasp species, maintaining monogamous relationships becomes unimportant after nest construction.
Have you ever witnessed insects as they were mating?