Emerging from my host now fully grown,
I test my twisted wings on freedom short;
Then start my search for your sweet pheromone,
And spy you bulging like a grotesque wart.
You occupy the belly of a bee
Cocooned inside and safe from any pain,
At least until you copulate with me;
If you don’t like it Darwin is to blame.
Immaculate conception this is not,
I sink my hook severely in your neck;
Then fill you with my seed in one long shot,
Before I leave your body as a wreck.
My parting gift to you before I die?
Our offspring will eat you from the inside.
This is a Shakespearian Sonnet about recent research done by scientists at Friedrich Schiller University Jena in Germany, who found that the Strepsiptera (or “twisted-wing”) parasite mate via traumatic insemination. This brutal mating ritual involves the male pushing its hook-shaped penis into the female’s neck cavity, and then injecting seminal fluid into the female, fertilising the thousands of eggs within the female’s body cavity. The female is wingless, and lies within the abdomen of another insect host, such as a bee or wasp, with only part of their body protruding from the host. The males live for only a few hours, and yet this mating ritual lasts for up to thirty minutes, possibly to reduce the chances of other males mating with the same female. After giving birth to her offspring the female is basically eaten alive by her brood.
An audio version of the poem can be heard here.