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7 unusual insect courting rituals

Feb. 11, 2011, 1:25 p.m.
firefly on blade of grass

Photo: James Jordan/Flickr

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Fireflies: Flashdance

Male insects use a variety of interesting techniques to seduce their lovers. However, none is quite as dazzling, to the human eye at least, as the flashing of fireflies. Male fireflies, which are actually winged beetles of the family Lampyridae, use bioluminescence to score with the ladies, some even flashing a “come get some” signal in sync. After studying the flash patterns of fireflies in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Georgia Southern University biology professor Jonathan Copeland and University of Connecticut professor of physiology and neurobiology Andrew Moiseff concluded that synchronized flashing is a way for a group of randy males to indicate to a group of available females that “hey, it’s okay … we’re all of the same species so come on over and enjoy yourselves.” In turn, interested females will emit a single flash back before getting to business.

Moiseff said to Agence France-Presse: “Females recognize that the males are the correct species and respond with their own species-specific flash. Females may also be using flash information, such as flash intensity, to determine which male might be a better mate.”