Insects aren't gay, study finds, but possibly confused or over-excited

Oct. 21, 2013 at 5:28 PM
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TEL AVIV, Israel, Oct. 21 (UPI) -- Apparent homosexual activity observed in insects is more likely accidental in most cases and a case of mistaken identity, Israeli researchers say.

While many species of insects and spiders have been observed in homosexual behavior like courting, mounting and trying to mate with members of the same sex, it may be just a matter of being overexcited, scientists at Tel Aviv University reported Monday.

In the rush to produce offspring -- the strongest of evolutionary drives -- insects do not take much time to inspect their mates' gender, potentially leading to same-sex mating, they said.

"Insects and spiders mate quick and dirty," zoologist Inon Scharf said. "The cost of taking the time to identify the gender of mates or the cost of hesitation appears to be greater than the cost of making some mistakes."

In some species as many as 85 percent of males engage in homosexual behavior, not because they directly benefit from the behavior but because they mistake other males for females, the researchers said.

In many species, they pointed out, males and females look so similar to one another that males cannot tell if potential mates are female until after they have mounted them.

The study, a collaboration between Israeli and Swiss researchers, was published in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

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