The Housing Hour takes a look at odd insect mating habits
Forget flowers and chocolates this Valentine’s Day. When it comes to wooing a mate many insect species have their own, unique ways of attracting the opposite sex. In honor of Valentine’s Day, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) explores some of these strange mating habits.
If you’ve ever had a bed bug infestation, you know how quickly a few bugs can turn into hundreds, but what you may not know is justhowall those bed bugs come to be. Bed bugs practice a mating behavior known as “traumatic insemination” where the male pierces the abdomen of the female.
The name “kissing bug” might lead you to believe we’re talking about a disease you can pick up from smooching your Valentine, but kissing bugs are actual insects. Named for their tendency to bite the faces and lips of humans while they sleep, kissing bugs can cause welts and allergic reactions. This blood meal is necessary for male kissing bugs to mate and for the female kissing bug to lay eggs.
In fire ant colonies, the queen ant is in charge of egg laying, and can even control how many male and female eggs she lays. Her goal is to produce another queen, which needs males to mate and produce a colony. Worker ants, however, have no use for males, which die after mating. When the queen needs males, she can overwhelm the colony with male eggs. The female workers kill many of the males, but they can’t kill them all.
American cockroaches engage in courtship rituals before mating. Females begin courtship by raising their wings, exposing their integral membranes and releasing a pheromone that attracts males. This stance is referred to as the calling position.
Attracted males approach females and flap their wings to denote interest.
After fertilization, a female American cockroach produces an egg case known as an ootheca. The female carries the ootheca on her abdomen for a short time, usually a day or two. After that, she deposits it in a warm humid location.
Nymphs emerge within 38 days and complete their development within six to 12 months. The life span of the American cockroach ranges from one to 1.5 years.
Black widow mating occurs in springtime. In rare cases, black widow females consume males after mating, feeding on them as sources of nutrients needed for egg fertilization. Female black widow spiders can produce several egg sacs in summer months. These sacs are tightly woven, silken cups and are protected fiercely by the female until they hatch.
Egg sacs are white, tan or gray in color and have a paper-like texture. They may be pear-shaped or globular. Each egg sac contains hundreds of eggs, from which hundreds of spiderlings emerge. However, only a handful of these young survive, as black widows are cannibalistic during the early stages of their lives.
Surviving spiderlings undergo molting stages known as instars. Compared to females, males generally require fewer molts to reach maturity. Many spiderlings overwinter as immatures, and then they mature fully the following spring. Although the expected lifespan of black widow spiders is one year, some specimens have been known to live up three years.
If you suspect a pest infestation in your home, contact a pest professional to cut the courtship short. To learn more about pests, their mating habits and pest-proofing your home, visit PestWorld.org.
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