The term "The birds and the bees" is a common euphemism for human sexual relations. It is kind of odd since humans do not have sex in quite the same way as birds and certainly not at all in the same way as bees.
The funny thing is I suspect even children know more about how humans have sex than they do about how the birds and the bees do “it”.
Let us start by looking at birds. Most birds species are monogamous, even if only for a year. This means they stay with one mate for that season, some birds are monogamous for life. Being in this kind of relationship usually means both will care for their young thus increasing their survival.
However to back it up a bit, first they have to find a mate.
A pair of Oystercatchers, he looks happy!
Typically there is some sort of ritual, even in birds who mate for life. These are called courtship displays, and are usually preformed by the male as a way to show how attractive he is, or how nice he sounds. As such these rituals usually involve sight and sound. Humming birds have a very frightening display where the male flies up and dive bombs the female at full speed, diverting his course only inches from her head. Of course many of us are familiar with the display of the peacock or the song of the male canary.
Most birds become more sexually active in the spring when the amount of sunlight they receive sends signals to their brains that it is time to reproduce. This assures that their young are hatched in good weather, incubation periods vary from species to species. Some birds mate on the ground and others in trees.
A pair of House Sparrows.
Let’s talk chicken. When you buy your eggs from the store they are never going to hatch, they were never fertilized by a rooster. Female hens produce eggs within their body daily, usually they lay an egg 24 hours after fertilization. The rooster has a different shaped organ, called a cloaca, with a glob of sperm on it, and his job is to press this glob against the vent, or cloaca, of the hen. The sperm can live inside the hen for several days, thus fertilizing several eggs.
Yup, that is chickens, well a hen and a rooster really
On to the bees. Male bees generally only have one purpose, basically they live to have sex. There are several species of bees, but for most sex is the same. It happens in mid air as a female mates with more than one male. The female gathers all the sperm she will need for her lifetime. Mating occurs when the male bee inserts his endophallus, or sex organ, into the female, in the case of honey bees this results in the death of the male a short time later, as the endophallus stays in the female and he cannot live without it. In other bees the males can survive to mate with multiple females.
A beautiful picture of a romantic bee couple. Interesting because bees usually mate in flight.
A weird fact about bee reproduction is that fertilized eggs develop into females and unfertilized eggs develop into males. The mother has the choice to fertilize an egg with the sperm she has gathered, or not. She can also produce males without ever breeding in the first place, although I suspect this is not what your mother had in mind when she discussed the “Birds and the Bees” with you.
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