What do you give a woman? The shiniest, biggest, or most expensive isn’t always the best gift. A good gift is preferably tasty and of high quality. Something that has been put in effort is also very much appreciated. The stacking effect that can be achieved by offering multiple gifts with these properties is absolutely perfect. Some insects know that. Scorpion flies (family Panorpidae) for example.
Scorpion flies are not flies. They are also not scorpions, although some specimens are reminiscent of that with their held up end of the abdomen, which has considerable proportions and is also orange-red. Poison doesn’t come out. Seed is, because the striking thickening, which mainly consists of a pair of sturdy pincers, is the male sexual organ. Female scorpion flies have no such case. They do have something different, namely a large set of requirements.
A man has to come up with a present, in the form of protein-rich meat. He can gnaw that off a fresh carcass, but she also likes a dead insect. A great source for this is a spider’s web full of prey caught in it. Other insects stick to spiderwebs, but the scorpion fly doesn’t. He can simply walk the web, snatch a tasty critter and fly off, carried by large, spotted wings. If he comes to a woman with such a gift, she may become interested in him.
Yet it is not enough. She wants more. She wants another present. Only when he vomits well for her does she become willing. He gives up food that he has eaten before from a kind of stretchy fore-stomach, a crop. The woman eats it. She bows her head, reminiscent of a horse with the elongated muzzle that widens at the end where her jaws are located. With that, she swallows the offered vomit. In the meantime, she lets the man mate with her, holding her tightly with those thick pincers on his abdomen. The duration of copulation depends on the quality of the vomit. The more nutritious it is, the longer she will eat from it and the more seed he can leave inside her to fertilize her eggs. The production of those eggs is also aided by high-quality vomit. Furthermore, satisfying vomit ensures that the mother-to-be will not be hungry for the time being and thus will not be very eager for attentions from other men. They will then not be able to mate with her and that means less competitive seed for the male scorpion fly. All this makes it more likely that he will father her offspring and not someone else. Love also goes through the stomach with some insects, especially if effort has been made for the tasty snack.
A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of May 7, 2022