Which Species Die—or Kill—for Love?

We’ve all seen those beautiful penguin photos, beaks together forming a heart, on Valentine’s Day. And don’t get us wrong; we love how adorable and sweet nature can be. But just for fun, we thought we’d explore the darker side of love in the wild—with animals that are willing to die for it! Maybe they’ve been listening to too much Prince: “You just leave it all up to me; my love will be your food.”

Is all fair in love and war? Find out which sex comes out on top …


Honeybee—The Virgin Queen

Here’s how it goes down as the queen flies to a new location: The males mount the queen in flight, insert their endophallus, have it ripped from their bodies and die leaving the queen newly fertilized. Oh, honey!

Honeybee. Photo © Red Barnes/Flickr via a Creative Commons license


Praying Mantis—Off with His Head!

Females usually kill their mate when he dismounts after copulation (although sometimes she starts during the act)—starting with the arms so he can’t fight her, next with the head and on down. Half of all males successfully dismount without harm. It all comes down to how hungry she is. How’s that for a dinner date?

Photo © Giddeon Zeix

Black Widow—Kiss of Death

Females frequently eat their male partners before and after mating, and her venom is at least three times more potent than his, making a male’s self-defense bite ineffective. His best bet? Pluck a few strands of her web to see if she wants to mate, and if he goes for it, be ready to web hop!

Photo © twbuckner/Flickr via a Creative Commons license


Brush-tailed Australian Marsupial Mouse—Bop ’til You Drop

This mouse wastes no time finding a mate, becoming sexually active by age one. The males die two weeks after breeding due to the stress and exhaustion of mating, leaving the female a single mom caring for her young.

Photo © David Hosking/FLPA

Mayflies—Speed Mating

Most adults live two hours to three days, but some live less than 90 minutes. In that time, they need to mate, deposit the female’s eggs and die. Talk about a one-track mind!

Photo © Harold E. Malde


Fairy Shrimp—Short but Sweet

Is it all about the kids? Fairy shrimp mate and fertilize their eggs in temporary rain pools. They die when the water dries up, leaving their offspring to wait in the soil for the rains to return, starting the short and unselfish cycle again. Now that’s taking one for the team.

Photo © Larry Serpa/TNC

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The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people.


By The Nature Conservancy


Nimue Pendragon

I'll pass, it's not pretty.

Karen Martinez
Karen Martinez3 years ago

Glad my husband didn't die after I got pregnant with our kids--I don't believe I could do the single parent thing very well at all...

Pat Rock
Pat Rock4 years ago

interesting, thanks!

Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa4 years ago

Thank you

Wisteria K.
Past Member 4 years ago

Yes, life is hard for the male.
Where is the animal MRA?

Alan Lambert
Alan Lambert4 years ago

I remember a Star Trek novel where there was a race that the males died to mate and the combination of that concept on top of sentience was fascinating.

Chazz York jr
Chazz York4 years ago

Thank goodness that human mating isn't normally like the mating facts listed here. YIKES!

Shelli S.
Shelli S4 years ago

Cool..Brush-tailed Australian Marsupial Mouse, is a new 1 4 me.

susan k.
susan k5 years ago


Hardik Shah
Hardik Shah5 years ago

thank you for sharing