ROMANCE is always in the air in the animal kingdom.

Some might say that the animals’ purpose in living is just breeding. But it would surely be amazing to find out that these little animals don’t just breed–they are in fact, highly selective with their mates. The process varies in different ways but both exciting and interesting.

A lot of people may be wondering how small animals and insects mate. With their very tiny body parts, it’s really hard to observe the process with the naked eye or even imagine. They do it in a very fascinating manner. Even cockroaches, butterflies, and seahorses have their share of “afternoon delight.”

Cockroaches’ afternoon delight

Remember the insect repellant commercial featuring two cockroaches with the song “Afternoon Delight” on the background?

In the advertisement, the two met and danced around as if in courtship. Then suddenly, the female stopped and started their “afternoon delight.”

But that was just an ad. In reality, there aren’t any courtship involved in the process, since the female doesn’t have much choice once it feels the urge to make love.

Even cockroaches get aroused. They begin to feel this change of sexual behavior once they smell the scent of a fluid secreted by their potential mates. Some cockroaches would even position themselves in certain places where the air would carry the scent to their intended mates. This strategy is observable to places with dense cockroach population.

Meanwhile, some cockroaches use an easier technique- they offer food secreted from their abdominal glands to the female. Once the treat has been given, the female automatically assumes the appropriate position for mating.

While the female is busy eating the “offering,” the male inserts his spermatophore, a capsule containing large number of sperm cells into the female’s genital. After 24-hours, the female ejects the empty spermatophore and consumes it. Its covering contains uric acid and nitrogen valuable for the development of the embryo.

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Sometimes, the agressive females make their move to mate with males of the higher rank. They determine this through their odor. Some males of the lower rank often position themselves closely to those of the higher rank so they can mate with the females in the vicinity.

Choosy madame butterfly

Unlike cockroaches, female butterflies has the option of whether or not to mate with a certain male. In fact, they needed to be courted and wooed first before mating. Females can only mate once in their short life span, while the males can mate frequently.

A butterfly’s sex can be determined through the color of their wings. Females have wings which reflect ultraviolet rays, while males have wings which absorb it. This difference in color can only be observed in ultraviolet wavelength.

In an experiment with a specie of butterfly called Checkered Whites, conducted by Diane C. Wiernasz of the University of Houston, the female mated with males with darker markings at the tip of their forewings. This experiment shows how the females discriminate males with slight difference in color.

The color of the wings also reflects a butterfly’s age. Studies in the 70s has shown that as male butterflies age, their wings lose scales which absorb the ultraviolet rays, therefore, losing its color. This also makes the male less seductive to female butterflies because virgins prefer to mate with younger mates with more intact wings.

Still, other male butterflies use chemicals to make the female agreeable to mating. They possess features such as unusual scales on the wings or hair pencils, which carries sex pheromones.

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Sex pheromones are compounds excreted by male butterflies that stimulate sexual interest in females when absorbed.

Many species of butterflies have developed a certain ritual in courtship. A male Grayling Hipperchia semele for example, lands directly in front of the female, catch her antennae between his wings, and then bows slowly, to brush her antennae with sex pheromones carried in his wings.

The male Gulf Fritillary Agraulis vanillae sits next to a female and claps its wings, opens and closes it, intentionally touching the female’s nearest antennae.

The mating process lasts an hour or more. The female must move her abdomen out from the middle of her hindwings to grant the male access.

But at times, despite the persistent efforts and charm of the males, the females remain apathetic. Females which have mated recently are the most obstinate. And though the male continuously persists, the female will also continuously reject him by fleeing from him. Or if flying, she would flutter her wings rapidly in an ascending motion.

Watching butterflies can be fun and interesting. Actual courting and rejection can actually be observed in the butterfly sanctuary right in the heart of the UST Botanical Garden beside the Santisimo Rosario Church. Go and visit and if you’re lucky, you might actually watch the actual mating process.

The romantic seahorses

Perhaps of all animals, seahorses are the most romantic. Aside from the fact that males are the ones getting pregnant, their courting and mating process involve extreme love and romance for they are all monogamous.

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The seahorse courtship lasts for three mornings. In the first two mornings just after sunrise, the male and female seahorses gather together. The male fills his pouch with water and both signals their interest in courtship by emitting bright light from their bodies. They will move closer to one another, hold the same grassroot with their tails and then circle like a carousel. At some point, they would stop and transfer to another grassroot.

On the third morning of courtship, the female’s trunk becomes rounded and her ovipositor, a specialized organ for transferring eggs begins to protrude. After facing one another with tails bent back, they would ascend towards the surface as the female inserts her ovipositor into the male’s open pouch to transfer the string of sticky egg cells. The transfer lasts for six seconds and then the couple would break apart for a while for the eggs to settle in the male’s pouch.

During the male’s three weeks of pregnancy, they would greet each other every morning and begin a slow twirl dance around a few grassroots.

After hatching the eggs, the offspring will not receive further parental care. And after a few hours of giving birth, the male can mate again.

Even in animals and insects, it still takes affection and dedication to have a partner to mate with. A scent to humans can be a language of love for them. But whatever the case is, sex isn’t something done without reason. Whether it’s an animal, insect, or whatever form of life, it still takes love to make love.

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