The methods of mating and reproduction for bugs can be complex, and sometimes
unusual. Most bug species have males and females that mate and reproduce
sexually, with males producing sperm to fertilise the eggs produced by females.
Many insects perform routines or rituals to attract a mate. These may entail a
mating dance, moving or flying in circles, the fluttering of wings, or the
stroking of the female by the male. Some bugs offer ‘gifts’ in the form of a
chemical or food. Some bees collect the scents of particular flowers and store
them on their back legs for use in their courtship rituals.
Many insects such as flies, beetles, wasps, bees and butterflies will gather at
a particular location for no other purpose than finding a mate. Mating often
happens just once, with females relying on the sperm stored from a mating for
the rest of their lives.
Several bugs, like stick insects, aphids and some grasshoppers, can do without a
mate all together. They are able to reproduce parthenogenetically, the young
hatching from unfertilised eggs as clones of the mother.
The production of eggs takes place in the abdomen of the female. After
fertilisation, females will find a place to lay the eggs. This is usually close
to, or in, a food source appropriate to the young of the species, and in a
place safe from predators. Some female insects have a long, needle-like
ovipositor at the base of their abdomen, which they use for placing their
fertilised eggs in the soil.
While most bugs lay eggs, there are some that give birth to live young, and
others that do both. Some cockroaches retain their fertilised eggs; the
eggs hatch inside the mother's body and she gives birth to live young.
Flies are amongst the most prolific breeders. A female house fly can lay between
500 and 600 eggs during her life, in batches of 75 to 100 eggs. The whole
process from egg to adult takes less than two weeks. If all the eggs from a
female house fly were to hatch, and all the offspring were allowed to survive,
breed, and lay their own eggs, then we would have 180,000 flies in just two
generations. In three generations we would have 54,000,000 flies.