Yeah, I know, that goes without saying. Bedbugs are vile creatures that make my flesh crawl just thinking about them. I tend to be very much against interacting with creatures that want to feed upon me in any way.
I wouldn’t want to have to actively feed on a living thing in order to survive. (Let’s leave the vegetarian debate out of this. It gets complicated. If I had to suck on a live cow to have a steak, I’d definitely think twice. And then there’s the breastfeeding issue, proving that many of us have been parasites at one point or another… oh, my head hurts.)
I’m not a proponent of reincarnation, so I suspect the odds of me living the bedbug life are rather slim. But you never know. The reason bedbugs are at the top of my lives-to-be-avoided list boils down to one thing above all others: traumatic insemination.
In simple terms, the male grabs a female and pierces her through the wall of her abdomen and injects the sperm that way. This causes a lot of down time in the female while she heals from essentially being stabbed in the gut. Infections can occur. Her lifespan is shortened. She loses blood. In some cases she has an allergic reaction and dies.
Nice, huh? And she can be attacked like this by multiple males in a season. Some types of female bedbugs are passive during this trauma. Other types fight back vigorously. But given how many bedbugs are still in the world, it seems the males prevail.
And the crazy thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. The female bedbug has a genital tract. Unfortunately, it’s only used for laying fertilized eggs.
And bedbugs aren’t the only creatures that employ traumatic insemination. I also wouldn’t want to be a nematode, a thorny-headed worm, a twisted-winged parasite, a fruit fly, a sea slug, or a type of spider that is aptly named the Harpactea Sadistica.
And omigod, then we have the Turbellaria, or the free living flatworm, which engages in “penis fencing”. These worms are hermaphrodites, and when two decide to mate they engage in a fierce battle with their penises. Whoever gets pierced first has to bear the energy cost of reproduction.
And then there’s the water beetle of the genus Acilius. These guys are brutal. They will suffocate a female underwater until she’s too exhausted to fight back. And this process can last up to six hours, with very few breathing breaks. Horrific.
And I’ve personally seen Muscovy ducks mate, where the male forces the female’s head underwater while she frantically struggles. I wanted to wade into that pond and beat that male senseless. It was very upsetting to watch.
So the next time a guy jokes about male praying mantises getting their heads bitten off, or what some female spiders do, direct them to this blog post. Nature can be brutal on both sides. But I find it interesting that we hear more about the brutal females than the brutal males.
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