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The angel insect, and its exceptional wings

The story of a delicious mating.


Picture yourself in a Mesoamerican rain forest.

[mesoamerican rainforest soundscape fades in, but it’s slightly muffled]

The air around you is very moist. It is also saturated with odors of fungi, and decaying wood.

You are in a rotting log, your home. You are an Angel insect, or Zoraptera.

You are now an adult female, and you are looking for a mate!

Hi and welcome to the Insect Insights, chill insect stories to relax and wonder, available wherever podcasts are. If you like this podcast, you can subscribe, leave a review and even an insect question, on spotify or on the website. I am Max, your host, and I hope you are ready to dive into insect knowledge for another weekly insight!

You cruise around, bath in the smell of this ephemeral fortress. You eat some mycellium and spores from the fungus thriving on the walls of your cavity. You are surrounded by your family, the members of your colony of angel insects.

Your last moult finished what started a few days ago, as a previous moult had revealed wing buds. You now possess two beautiful pair of wings. You are the only one around to be winged. All the others, even though they are adult, remain wingless. You are special.

Before using your wings, though, you need to mate. Finding a suitable reproductor, mating, and flying away to another cavity in damp rotten wood. So is the way of the few winged individuals developing in a Zoraptera colony. You are the true angel, one of the few who will carry on your lineage in outerwood territory.

As you walk around, feeling satiated of the spores you ingested, a male approaches. He is the same size as you are, and initiate the short dance your kind practice for courtship. He shows his neck, and then proposes the appropriate droplet of nutritious liquid, dripping for his head gland.

You assay the taste of this offering, with the tip of your palps. Yes, it will do just fine, this is a present of high quality. You enjoy the nutritional gift, as the male twists its body to arrange for the meeting of the tips of your abdomens. You let him take care of this part of the work, as you savor your droplet. His head is still facing yours as his starts the contortionistic sperm transfer. Patiently, you let him finish, and receive the precious material you are entrusted with.

Now, you can do what would have felt so strange just one moult ago: seek the light, the wind, the outer wood territories. Use your wings to boldly go where no bug has gone before! Well, no one from your colony at least.


Gottardo, M.; Dallai, R.; Friedrich, F.; Yoshizawa, K.; Mashimo, Y.; Beutel, R. G.; Machida, R.; Wipfler, B.; Matsumura, Y. 100 Years Zoraptera—a Phantom in Insect Evolution and the History of Its Investigation. Insect Systematics & Evolution 2014, 45 (4), 371–393. https://doi.org/10.1163/1876312X-45012110.

Choe, J. C. The Evolution of Mating Systems in the Zoraptera: Mating Variations and Sexual Conflicts. In The Evolution of Mating Systems in Insects and Arachnids; Choe, J. C., Crespi, B. J., Eds.; Cambridge University Press, 1997; pp 130–145. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511721946.008.