Love is in the air, quite literally for some animals. Dragonflies zip through the air, butterflies dance in flight, and frogs send songs soaring in search of mates. Ever wonder how these animals court one another? Let’s explore how these three animals find their mates!
Dragonfly: Flying wheels
Male dragonflies spend much of their time fiercely defending a territory from other male dragonflies. The closer this territory is to water the better, as they are more likely to find a female dragonfly flying by. When this happens the male will approach and hold her neck with the end of his abdomen. If the female accepts she will lift her abdomen forming a wheel position. They may stay like this for just a few minutes up to several hours, even flying around in the wheel position. Afterwards the female dragonfly will lay her eggs in or near the water. Some species may lay their eggs while still attached!
Butterfly: A colorful courtship
Butterflies attract mates with their bright colors from a distance. When closer, depending on the species, they perform a courtship ritual. This may involve the male butterfly dancing in the air or on a plant, wing flicking, rubbing, and even releasing smells to entice the female into mating. If she accepts then the pair will attach their abdomens end-to-end. Like dragonflies, they can stay attached for up to several hours. If they need to move before they finish, say if a hungry bird approaches, the female may take off in flight dragging the male behind.
Frog: Hugging it out
Frogs attract mates with their calls and each species makes a unique sound. These croaks and ribbits will draw female frogs near and keep other male frogs away. When a female comes near the male frog will hold onto her back with his front legs in a position called amplexus. This allows the female frog to be guarded by the male until after she lays her eggs. The male will fertilize her eggs as or shortly after they are laid. Exactly where he holds on and for how long depends on the species and can go on for minutes to days!
Would you like to learn more about butterflies, dragonflies, or frogs? Check out our three community science projects where you can learn to identify and help us monitor populations of the many species of each occurring in Illinois!