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Posts Tagged ‘mating’

When it comes to mating, many male insects are really aggressive—they will do everything they can to prevent their rivals from hooking us with a desirable female. I think that is what was going on in this image I captured on Sunday of three bees outside of a bee house in the garden of my friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer. It looks to me that the top bee in this ménage à trois was trying to dislodge a rival and somehow gain access to the female. Yes, as the old song simply states, “birds do it, bees do it.”

Perhaps you have a better explanation of what was transpiring, like they were simply playing piggyback and wanted to see how strong the bottom bee was. What do you think? I encourage you to click on the image to see the details better.

I often tell you that I was not as close as it seems, because I generally shoot with a telephoto lens or a long macro lens. In this case, though, I was shooting with a 60mm macro lens and was only a few inches away from the “action” and had to dodge bees that were entering and exiting the tubes of the bee house.

bees

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s springtime. Love is in the air and mating is on the mind of many marsh creatures, including these Snapping Turtles (Chelydra serpentina). The first image makes it look like love is a tender affair for these turtles, but the reality seems to be that mating is brutal and violent.

Most of the activity takes place underwater so it is hard to know what is going on, but it looks like the male jumps the female and essentially tries to drown her. Periodically she is able to struggle to the surface to grab a breath of air before the weight of the male forces her underwater. After a half hour or so, the female managed to decouple and to swim away, leaving the male, as you can see in the final shot,with a look of satisfaction on his face.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s difficult not to feel a bit like a voyeur when you spot a pair of ladybugs mating. They consummate the act in public view and their bold coloration makes them almost impossible to miss. Still, there is just something loveable about ladybugs and I doubt that many readers will find these images objectionable.

ladybug1A_love_blogladybug2_love_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I first caught sight of this male Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) in the air, I thought that he had captured some sort of prey. I was wrong, yet I was also right.

The male dragonfly’s prey was a female dragonfly and they were in a mating position that I later learned is known as the wheel. The sheer flexibility and athleticism involved seems worthy of the Cirque de Soleil. Apparently it starts when the male grabs the female’s head with special claspers at the tip of his abdomen.

I came across a fascinating article by Jennifer Ackerman in National Geographic Magazine entitled Dragonflies Strange Love that provides some amazing insights into the mating habits of dragonflies. One sentence really sums up the process, “Grab, shake, bite, puncture, punch—that’s just the courtship ritual of these dazzling aerobats.”

The male dragonfly seems to be driven by an incredibly strong biological drive. I can almost hear one of them repeating the words of the Tina Turner song, “What’s love got to do with it?”

wheel_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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This morning as I was walking through the marsh area of Huntley Meadows Park, I happened to catch sight of this pair of grasshoppers. With any other kind of vegetation the grasshoppers would have been camouflaged, but that was certainly not the case against the backdrop of a cattail.

I was struck by the differentiation in color between the male and the female—it reminded me of my time in the Army, when there were different camouflage patterns for woodlands and for the desert.

Mating grasshoppers

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last week when I was at a local garden I came across several pairs of ladybugs mating and several things really stood out to me.

First, the male ladybug is a lot smaller than the female. An article at ladybuglady.com (a great name for a website) points out that females are “usually” larger than males, but essentially it’s almost impossible for the average person to tell them apart until they are mating. If you really want to know how to tell male ladybugs from females the referenced article has photos from an electron microscope with detailed explanations.

The other thing that was obvious was the difference in color and spots between the two. The male is a medium orange with a few small light black spots and the female is a deeper shade of red with larger, darker spots. Wikipedia notes that there are more than 5,000 species of ladybugs (which technically are beetles and not bugs), with more than 450 native to North America. According to that article, the number, shape, and size of the spots is dependent on the species of ladybug. Does that mean these two ladybugs are different species?

Bugguide has some interesting factoids about names used elsewhere in the world for the ladybug. For example, “Ladybird” was first used in medieval England, perhaps because these beneficial predators of agricultural pests were believed to be a gift from the Virgin Mary—the “Lady.” Other European names have similar associations, such as the German Marienkäfer, “Marybeetle.” (Thanks to Gary for pointing out the correct spelling in German—I inserted the Umlaut to make it correct.)

So I am left wondering, will the little ladybugs that result from this coupling look more like mom or like dad?

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am never sure if it’s appropriate to post photos of mating insects, but decided to overlook my inhibitions and post this unusual photo of a pair of mating Eastern Amberwing dragonflies (Perithemis tenera).

Normally I have trouble getting good shots of these dragonflies because of their small size. According to BugGuide, their total length typically is 21-24 mm long (about 3/4-1 inch). In addition, they always seem to land on plants that away from the shoreline (unlike the Blue Dasher dragonflies that seem to like the plants at the very edge of the water).

This past Friday I was photographing dragonflies with Cindy Dyer at a local garden (Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, VA) when this pair dropped from the sky and landed on a lily pad right in front of me. I happened to be shooting with a telephoto zoom so I had to back up a little to try to get a picture in focus. For those who are technically-minded, the exposure was shot at f11, 1/50 second, ISO 400, at 179mm of a 55-250mm zoom lens.

The photo is not perfectly sharp, but it gives an interesting view into the mating habits of Eastern Amberwing dragonflies. I don’t know my dragonfly anatomy very well, so it took some research to figure out who is who in this photo. The female is the one with the brown spots on her wings and she is holding on to the male’s tail. I think I’ll stop my description there and leave the rest to your imagination.

One thing that this photo taught me is that dragonflies are a whole lot more flexible and gymnastic than I realized!

Mating Eastern Amberwing dragonflies (click for a higher resolution view)

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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