I just returned from a quick trip to Montana. Mid-June is early spring there (when I visited in March, it was -22 Fahrenheit). In addition to the nesting birds and new fawns and hills full of wildflowers, I noticed that a lot of the smaller critters were busy as well, making hay while the sun shines, as they say. (I took plenty of photos of things not having sex, by the way. I just thought it was interesting, and — you know what? I don’t have to justify myself. It’s my damn blog.) Anyway, these are a sampling. The butterflies (best guess is a species called a Blue Copper) are normally hard to approach, but under these circumstances seemed not to notice me at all. It made photographing them easier, but does seem to be a poor strategy for avoiding hungry birds. On the other hand, the pretty little yellow wildflower they’re on is the lethally-named Meadow Death Camas — maybe making love near neurotoxic alkaloids is enough to keep predators at bay.
Catching the spider pair was a bit of luck — I noticed the male (the more slender of the two) among the needles of a pine tree, “dancing” nervously and plucking at bits of web; after a moment, the female emerged from her protected spot at the base of the needles, lured out by his string music. The whole encounter was over in maybe a minute — and the male survived the affair, which if you know spiders, you know is no small feat.
The small black flies, which I’ve been reliably informed are called “Dance Flies” (Family Empididae), are predators of other insects. They were, unlike the butterflies, flying quickly and were hard to photograph. I only managed one picture of them — and discovered it wasn’t a pair, but a menage a trois — with number trois not really enjoying the proceedings. Apparently male dance flies sometimes provide a “nuptial gift” to entice the female — they buy her dinner, as it were. In this case, the gift seems to be another dance fly, which the female was eating… all while mating and flying. Talk about multitasking.
The small longhorn beetles were one of dozens of pairs in the arrowleaf balsamroot flowers on a hillside covered with blooms. Bees and butterflies and cameras came and went, the beetles didn’t care. They just hung out on their bed of petals and pollen. It may lack the drama of sex amid toxic flowers or while eating freshly-killed meat or with the threat of cannibalism… but even between invertebrates, sometimes all you need are flowers and sunshine.