Burying beetles mate by choosing a decaying animal carcass to fornicate next to, then laying their larvae in its rotting flesh. Hot!

After the passion dies away, beetles are much like humans: it’s time to take care of the kids, and inevitably, the sex life tapers off. Scientists at the University of Ulm in Germany have been studying how these co-parents make it work., and behavioral ecologist Sandra Steige says, “It is quite surprising... and somehow intriguing.”

Basically, it’s a huge expenditure of energy to get freaky and squeeze out more baby beetles, and no one’s got time for that when they’re busy pre-masticating dead mouse flesh for their demanding larvae. To ensure that he doesn’t try to climb up on her during this time, Mama Beetle gives Papa Beetle a big helping of dick softener. At Discover Magazine, Elizabeth Preston (who’s written for Jezebel) explains:

The male also needs to know that he shouldn’t bother his partner during her infertile period. Searching for a signal, the scientists looked at another chemical called methyl geranate. Female beetles make this while they’re breeding. Unlike a hormone, which stays inside the body to do its work, methyl geranate gets released into the air.

Sure enough, the scientists saw that female burying beetles gave off the most methyl geranate right after their new larvae hatched. The more babies were in her brood, the more of the chemical a mom gave off. And males, they saw, didn’t try to mate with their partners during this time.


Researchers say this is the first time an evolutionary trick of this nature has been discovered in the insect world. No word on how it can be synthesized for humans.

Image via Flickr.