Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Love is in the Air (Stick Bug Sex)

This might cross the weird line for some, but I thought it was neat.

When Dave and I were working on the spa bath deck, I happened to notice a stick bug on the roof post of the gazebo.  Then I noticed that there was a smaller stick bug on her back!

stick bug sex.  he's got his "arm" around her.  awww.

When both sexes of stick insect exist, the female is always larger.  The smaller males are always more difficult to identify than females, and in some cases, impossible to identify unless seen with a corresponding female.

attempted coitus interruptus?  suddenly, the female stick bug started walking away from the male while they were still attached!

When reproducing sexually, the female will often carry the male on her back for several hours to a few weeks (!), pausing their buggy sex only to lay eggs (they can eat independently during this time--just picture a buffet of leaves instead of strawberries and chocolates).

she dragged the male up the post.  somehow, he held on while waving around his little "arms."

Ladies, have you ever wondered muttered under your breath that you wished men didn't exist?
Well, in some stick insect species, males are not known to exist, or to occur very infrequently!
An entire genus (Acanthoxyla) consists of only female organisms, with one exception (A. senta).

by the time she made it to the rafters, the male had managed to climb back aboard.

So, how does the species perpetuate itself if only females exist?  The females reproduce via parthogenesis, a process nicknamed "virgin birth."  In the case of stick insects, unfertilized eggs become female stick insects, and the cycle can continue (fertilized eggs become male stick insects).  Plenty of other animals can reproduce via parthenogenesis, most famously the Komodo dragons.

hang on...  it's time to walk across the roof rafters...

Stick insects are pretty neat.  They can change colors throughout their lives, usually from green to brown.  They are AMAZINGLY well camouflaged, and most of the time you don't notice them until they move.  They do this funny little "dance," in which they sway back and forth, back and forth.  Apparently it's still unknown why they do this swaying dance, but it seems to be universal.  

stick insects together, against the sky

Since we're on the subject of love, I'd like to give a virtual congratulations to two awesome humans who very recently decided to spend the rest of their lives together.  They're on the short list of people who wouldn't mind their engagement being mentioned in a post about stick bug sex.  Congrats to Kate and Tim!

Salmon, J.T. "Stick Insects." Tuatara : Journal of the Biological Society. 5.3 (1995): 77-81.

1 comment:

  1. I know the subject of my dreams tonight will have something to do with stick bugs, a bit creepy!
    Sorry I missed your skype message. Still unpacking
    only to be packed up again in a few months, but at least I will not pack a single box. (Maybe just a few) Heading into five days of rain! Love you, Mummers xo