Friday, July 1, 2022

Frolicking and Fighting Among the Florets

With milkweeds of various species blooming now, many different insects are flocking to the fragrant Asclepias blooms, some to partake of the nectar and pollen, others to feast on the leaves.  I mentioned the Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle in my last post as one example of a leaf-eater, but the leaf-eater I find far more frequently is the Red Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus).  As big and bright-red as it is, it would be hard NOT to see it.  Not that it feels any need to hide.  Achieving its own toxicity by imbibing the toxic sap of the milkweed leaves,  the Red Milkweed Beetle warns off potential predators by its vivid color.  And it's also obvious this beetle feels no need to hide its amours, since I almost always encounter it unabashedly in flagrante delicto. And sometimes I see other interested parties wanting to join the party. Or at least look on.  

Here is a dramatic sequence of insect erotica I observed on one occasion:

In this particular milkweed patch, almost every plant had multiple pairs of Red Milkweed Beetles doing what comes naturally during mating season.

Was this lone beetle just a voyeur, or was he hoping to join the party over on the next milkweed leaf?

Uh oh!  Looks like he decided to move in, either to get a closer view or else to challenge his rival.

What followed was a fierce battle for dominance. Coitus interrupted, the two male beetles began to brawl, locking jaws and yanking each other this way and that. Here, the winner has flipped his rival onto his back.  As the champion backed off, the defeated one squirmed to his feet and scurried away.

At this point, my camera lens got too close to the scene of this battle, jiggled the leaf, and tipped the conqueror onto the ground. So I never got to see if he was able to continue where he left off. Chances were probably good, though, that another rival had already taken his place. It appeared that his lady had many suitors to choose from.

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