Researchers believe this is a survival tactic.

Dragonfly Sex

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Everyone has those nights when their significant other comes to bed and — for one reason or another — they decide to feign sleep to avoid talking or …doing other stuff.

Well, female dragonflies take this kind of sneaky sexual rejection to the next level — faking their own deaths to avoid having sex with aggressive males.

Scientists recently captured this phenomenon on video for the first time while observing moorland hawker dragonflies in the Swiss Alps.

In the newly released footage, the female is seen freezing mid-air and plummeting to the ground, where she lies motionless until the male leaves.

(When researchers approached the females, they immediately flew away — showing they remain alert throughout the fake death.)

This behavior, which has been previously observed in five other species, is called sexual death feigning. It’s believed to have developed as a survival tactic, since female dragonflies often risk injury or death when coerced into mating.

“In a lot of dragonflies, males try to seize the female with or without consent,” Rassim Khelifa, a biologist who recently published a study on the phenomenon, told National Geographic. “The fittest — that is the fastest, most powerful male — is usually the one who mates.”

Male dragonflies often pounce on their female victims as they bask in the sun by the water. After a female has laid eggs once, Khelifa found, she’s pretty much met her quota for sexual interaction.

And that’s when she starts playing dead.

It’s apparently an effective escape method, since more than 60% of the females who employed it successfully deceived their male pursuers — and every female who didn’t was intercepted.

Other methods used by female dragonflies to avoid having sex include laying their eggs in dense vegetation and avoiding areas heavily populated by males.

Sexual death feigning isn’t only used by the ladies, though.

On the opposite end of insect gender relations, male wolf spiders often play dead to avoid getting eaten after getting laid.

So next time human dating is stressing you out, take comfort in the fact that you always know whether or not your date is alive.


Next, check out this scary new research showing how spiders could theoretically eat every human on Earth in less than a year. Then, learn how women have used sex strikes to get men’s attention in politics.

Annie Garau
Annie is a NYC-based writer. For tips, write to [email protected]
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