A beetle’s pheromones are the sexual attraction hormones that it releases. They can signal an unsexy truth to its mate regarding the perennial “Not tonight, honey!” rejoinder.
The moment a female burying beetle is in a sentimental mode for her young ones, she sends a clear warning signal to her mate via her pheromones that she is not in the mood.
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The pheromones are released for a three day period during which the signs are clear for the male of the species to back off and let the mama beetle do the parenting job.
No matter how hot or horny the male beetle may feel, it will not even try to come close to the female while she cares for the vulnerable young.
The beetle species was known as Nicrophorus vespilloides and it was also termed the burying beetle. The species buries the dead bodies of birds and mice beneath the earth for its larvae to feed on.
The pheromone release activity of this beetle shows that many species have their priorities right. They want parenting instincts to take over the love-making impulse and so nature goes to work.
This lends us valuable insights into the family lives of animals and how they relate to each other on a primal level.
It comes as somewhat of a surprise that animals show such complex behavior patterns where delayed gratification occurs. Such elements of behavior as sacrifice or sublimation are normally human reactions to a frustrating environment.
However, to see such a mature parenting instinct in insects is a shocker. The parental impulse to provide for the children and let some of the immediate needs be shunted for later is very marked in the burying beetle.
Burying beetles are found in Europe, Asia and North America. The burying beetle is 2 cm in length and has a black color with orange stripes on its abdomen.
Over 400 species of beetles were collected from an area in Germany. They went on to provide examination material for the study. A male and a female normally cohabit although they do not remain monogamous for the totality of their life span.
The female burying beetle is infertile for a period of three days after the birth of the young. It is at this time that it releases pheromones which tell the male of the species to lay off sex for awhile. It is only natural to avoid sex when it serves no purpose in animals. Therefore this scheme of things is to be expected.
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The study got published in the journal Nature Communications.