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7 unusual insect courting rituals

Feb. 11, 2011, 1:25 p.m.
honey bee on red and yellow flower

Photo: Zuma Press

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Honeybees: Male sex slaves

As the single fertile she-bee of a colony, the queen honey bee is one lucky lady. First off, she has thousands of busy worker bees at her disposable to tend to her offspring and defend and build her kingdom. And then she has her harem of man-bees, or drones, that exist for one purpose and one purpose only: mating. During a queen bee’s mating flight she can hook up with multiple drones, hoarding their sperm for life in a sac called the spermatheca.

So are these drones given the chance to turn into doting dads? Not quite. After insemination, a drone’s penis and abdominal tissues are ripped apart from his body and he dies. And as it turns out with a life expectancy of only 90 days, drone bees are only seasonal sex workers. When fall approaches, surviving drones that didn’t get the chance to impregnate the queen are given the boot by the queen’s gang of worker bees and left to die outside of the hive.