Manchester's love bugs

Large white butterflies are fond of lavender. Image by Megan Lowe

In the tiny world of insects, finding a suitable mate can be a BIG challenge - our love bugs need to pull out all the stops.

Dancing, serenades, pheromones and even gifts are exchanged in the hopes of wooing a potential partner and continuing their gene pool.

Let's take a look at some of the weird and wonderful ways that Manchester's insects like to show their affection.

A male orange-tip butterfly feeding from bluebells

Bob Coyle

Strictly come butterflies

In the case of butterflies, it’s all about showing off. Those bright colours and beautiful patterns are all ways of signalling that they are looking for love. The variation in colour and pattern allows the different species to be distinguished from one another and also helps the butterflies differentiate between males and females.

When a male recognises a female of his own species he quickly pursues her and begins his courtship ritual – dancing. In many species, the female demands to see the males dance moves before he can come any closer. One false move could be the difference between a hot date and a microwave meal for one. 

A pink and green elephant hawkmoth resting on yellow flowers at night

Elephant hawkmoth by Donald Sutherland

Moth perfume

Flying by night, you could say that moths are pretty into the blind-dating scene, but not being able to see one another doesn’t stop our love bugs from finding the moth of their dreams. How? By using pheromones.

Females will produce chemicals (called pheromones) to let males in the area know they are ready for a committed relationship. Male moth antennae are exquisitely sensitive to pheromones released by females of the same species and can even detect females from a mile away.  

Scorpion fly

Bruce Shortland

Scorpion fly suitors

Mating can be a dangerous game in the case of the male scorpion fly who risks getting eaten alive for the sake of love. In a desperate attempt to distract the female, he presents her with a ‘nuptial gift’ – frequently a dead insect snatched from the web of a spider – the equivalent of a box of chocolates. 

Love them or loathe them, insects are vital in supporting a healthy, wildlife-rich city. Keep an eye out for them and see if you spot any insects you may not have noticed before this spring.

This year our City Nature Challenge events have sadly had to be cancelled, but you can still take part, recording wildlife from your garden, back yard, balcony or window!

Find out more about City Nature Challenge