Humans can learn a thing or two from observing sexual activities among beetles. Research shows that male darkling beetles engage in intense foreplay—specifically, oral sex—with their ladybug to improve their chances of getting laid.
What Are They Up to?
Insect sex may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but for researcher Xinghu Qin, his interest in the subject piqued when he spotted two little beetles mating shamelessly in the open. What puzzled him about what he saw was that one was constantly licking the other’s tail.
He and his colleagues begun studying the mating rituals of Mongolian desert beetles, or Platyope mongolica. They found that males of the species must perform oral sex on their females before copulation can take place.
Matjaž Gregorič, an entomologist at the Jovan Hadži Institute of Biology in Slovenia, who was not involved in the study, said:
We have observed self-licking behaviour in many animals. But males or females licking the genitalia of their partner, especially in beetlelike insects, is actually rare.
What This Means for Conservation
According to the study published in the journal, Ecology and Evolution, a male Mongolian desert beetle begins rubbing a protruding mouthpart called a maxillary palp over the genitals of a potential partner. If she does not find this performance to be satisfactory, she runs off.
The longer the male performs the oral courtship ritual, the shorter time he needs for successful copulation later on.
Daisuke Yamamoto, an entomologist at Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, reported observing this phenomenon in fruit flies, too.
We believe male licking of female genitalia [in fruit flies] mediated pheromone detection. It could also have served as a form of nutritional gift to females, also called a nuptial gift.
According to the researchers, interest in insects’ lives, may help with conservation efforts. Gregorič said:
if people know something interesting about animals, even if they are beetles or spiders, they will have a little bit more positive attitude toward the animal—and this is always useful in conservation.