Sexual reproduction, which involves male and female individuals, is the most common form of reproduction among animals, including insects. However, some species of aphid, ant, parasitic wasp, bee, midge, grasshopper and stick insect can reproduce asexually, through a process called parthenogenesis. In this type of asexual reproduction, the female can generate an embryo without the help of a male's sperm.
Aphids are small insects that feed on plant sap, with more than 4,000 known species. Some species of aphids can reproduce both sexually and asexually, often using parthenogenesis during spring. Females that reproduce asexually are called agamous or parthenogenetic, and are often wingless. Their offspring are often similar, but can also develop wings. Asexual reproduction is the result of an evolutionary adaptation to guarantee the survival of the species.
Small insects of the order Diptera, some species of midges are able to reproduce asexually. Members of the family Chironomidae, such as Paratanytarsus grimmii, are often found near water sources and can reproduce rapidly in an asexual way. The control of parthenogenetic midges is more difficult because some species can generate young even before reaching the adult stage.
Bees, Ants and Wasps
Some wasps of the family can generate young without mating. These species have complex life cycles that often include a sexual and a parthenogenetic generation. Sometimes, worker honeybees can develop ovaries and lay eggs that develop into males. But the Cape honeybee (Apis mellifera capensis) can lay eggs that develop into females, which can also generate other females through parthenogenesis. The ant Pristomyrmex punctatus is another species of insect that can reproduce asexually.
Grasshopper and Stick Insect
The wingless grasshopper Warramaba virgo, endemic to Australia, can only reproduce asexually, always generating female individuals. Some species of the stick insect Sipyloidea can also reproduce through parthenogenesis. The Indian stick insect Carausius morosus, which is commonly found in biological laboratories, is another species that can reproduce in an asexual way. Like most parthenogenetic insects, most individuals are females.
- Map of Life: Parthenogenesis in Australian Lizards and Insects
- The Amateur Entomologists' Society: Definition of Parthenogenesis
- Bug Guide: Agamy, Agamous
- "Evolution and Speciation: Essays in Honor of M. J. D. White"; William R. Atchley, et al.; 2011
- Bug Guide: Family Aphididae -- Aphids
- Bug Guide: Family Cynipidae -- Gall Wasps
- Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images