Science

AUDIO: The bizarre sex lives of insects

From exploding male honeybees to deadly orgies in dung, the world of insect sex can be pretty strange.

From exploding male honeybees to deadly orgies in dung, the world of insect sex can be pretty strange.

Marlene Zuk, a biology professor at the University of California, Riverside, is the author of a new book called Sex on Six Legs — Lessons on Life, Love & Language from the Insect World.

"I think insects are great for illustrating life's possibilities," she told CBC's Quirks & Quarks in an interview. "They really seem to break all the rules."

Zuk described some of the more dramatic examples.

For male honeybees, courtship involves a desperate aerial chase after a fast-flying female, Zuk says. If the males do manage to catch up and mate, "their genitalia and then the rest of them explode at the moment of ejaculation and they fall to the ground lifeless."

But Zuk noted, "It's not necessarily all good for the female, either."

She described the fate of some female dung flies, who may face attention from large piles of males at once.

Sometimes, that leads to their ultimate demise.

"Drowning in dung – surely that is one of the worst ways to go," Zuk said. 

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