Honey bee
Photo by Paco Toscano/Shutterstock.com

The strangest mating habits of Canadian wildlife

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Human mating habits are relatively straightforward. Meet someone, decide if you’re compatible and, well, it’s pretty easy to fill in the blanks from there.

In the animal kingdom, though, reproduction is a lot more interesting. From exploding testicles to a garden created just to attract a female, animal mating practices range from the humorous to the downright deadly.

Here are some of the strangest animal mating habits in Canada that we’ve come across.

Honey bees

When the Queen of a honeybee colony mates, she does a seductive little mating dance outside the hive with a small group of male drones. Their happiness at getting to do a little dirty dancing with the queen is short-lived, though—once a queen and a drone have mated, the drone’s genitals explode and stay inside the queen, making it impossible for any other male to mate with her. Scientists have not yet discovered if the now-dead drone thinks the trade-off is worth it…

Red sided garter snakes

Remember that scene in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark? The one with the Well of Souls filled with snakes? That’s not entirely fictional. Female garter snakes emit a pheromone after they come out of hibernation that attracts males—lots of males. They form a huge “mating ball” around the female, trying to position themselves to impregnate her. This annual phenomenon is actually a big tourist attraction in Manitoba’s Interlake region.

Bed bugs

Nothing’s lovey-dovey about the way bed bugs procreate. Essentially, the male impales the female with his knife-like penis in order to deposit sperm. Traumatic, but effective—females lay between 200 and 500 eggs in their lifetime, which means that a single pregnant female can spark an infestation of 5,000 bed bugs within a six-month period.

Porcupines

Never mind flowers and a nice meal, procupines have an altogether weirder form of foreplay. In order to court a female during her short reproductive cycle—only eight to 12 hours a year—a male stands on his hind legs and sprays her with urine. If she’s not impressed, she (unsurprisingly) screams. However, if she likes her prospective mate, she lets things proceed.

Red velvet mites

Unlike bed bugs, red velvet mites, which look like teeny-tiny red spiders, take the whole seduction thing very seriously. To attract a mate, the male red velvet mite first builds a “love garden” made of plants, sticks, and…um…sperm. When he sees a female, he dances to attract her to his garden, and if she likes what she sees, she’ll sit on some of the sperm and impregnate herself. Romantic, huh?

Fruit flies

OK, there’s nothing particularly unusual in how fruit flies mate, but a type of tiny fruit fly called Drosophila bifurca does boast the world’s longest sperm. Uncoiled, it measures more than two inches—1,000 times longer than a human sperm.

Freshwater mussels

Male mussels release sperm into the water, hoping to impregnate a female. Once a female has a larva growing inside her, though, things get interesting. Because mussel larvae need fish to live, the female mussel works very hard at attracting a fishy foster family—waving appendages that look like worms or giving off the seductive scent of rotting meat. Once a fish comes to investigate, mama mussel shoots her larvae onto the fish where they grow, parasitically, until they mature.