The Deadly Female

The Deadly Female

Mating can be fatal for the males of some species. For the preservation of the race the male must occasionally sacrifice himself to the deadly female.

Female scorpions are guilty of the most atrocious table manners, and their invited guests, their mates, often become their meals.

Scorpions are distinctly antisocial and usually keep to themselves. But when a male and female meet for courtship and mating, the reclusive behavior becomes transformed into an idyllic relationship filled with graceful acrobatics. They begin by locking pincers and going through a strange rotating motion that resembles primitive dancing. The dance goes backward and forward, with the female following the male's lead in perfect rhythm.

The honeymoon lasts only a short time, however, and only one of the lovers survives the marriage bed; the survivor is always the female. Following the actual mating she stings the male to death and consumes him.

The female praying mantis does not consider the mating act complete until she has killed and eaten her mate. So cannibalistic is she that her mate is often killed during the courtship ritual. Not infrequently, while mating is occurring, she turns and clamps her forelegs in a viselike grip on the male and kills him by biting off his head. It is therefore not unusual for a female praying mantis to have more than one mate within a single season. One female was observed to have devoured as many as eight of her suitors.

The most famous of the deadly females is, of course, the black widow spider. Very little is heard of the male of the species. He is just as abundant as the female but only one—sixth her size. Perhaps the male black widow's greatest claim to fame is that he has never been known to bite humans.

Despite her reputation, the female black widow spider consumes her mate only if she is hungry. During the courtship period she is as tender, loving, and sensuous as could be expected of a female spider. The male is instinctively aware of his danger, so while she is in a passive mood he often ties her legs with web silk to immobilize her and then proceeds with the business at hand.

Following the actual mating the female easily breaks her bonds. During the brief moment while she is freeing herself, the male has time to make his getaway — but not always.

From the book: 
Our Fascinating Earth