There were thousands of them, no: millions! At first, we thought it was seaweed because of the brown color. But the texture looked different, maybe a different kind of seaweed? As we got closer, we saw little wings, millions of little wings. A few were moving. We stopped for a closer look. What started out as a romantic walk along Playa Negra (Black Beach) in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, morphed into a fascinating entomology adventure! I was buzzing with excitement!
There were millions of little winged insects. Most of them were dead. The few barely alive ones, instead of walking away from the ocean to avoid drowning, were walking TOWARDS the water. How odd! They were literally committing suicide. A wave would inevitably come, they didn’t swim, simply surrendered and the wave would drown them and wash them ashore, lifeless. Maybe they were shipwrecked? But what kind of ship would carry insects? It’s not like the tropics need anymore. The mysterious insects haunted me so I turned to the almighty internet for some answers.
Google Lens suggested they were winged ants. It made sense because further research lead me to fascinating phenomena about their mating habits. That tide line of dead ants on the shore were the males after their “Nuptial Flight”. It’s typical in the tropical rainy season. The flying ants mate in the air. After the act, the males die and the females go start new colonies. The queens, who mate with as many males as they could during their Nuptial Flight, land, lose their wings, excavate nesting spots and lay their eggs.
Nuptial flight is typical of most ant, termite and some bee species. The males have only one purpose in life: inseminating the queen. Once they accomplish it, they die. The queen nurses the first batch of eggs on her own, until worker ants grow and take over the work part. From that point on, the queen becomes an egg laying machine.
Nature! Never ceases to amaze, inspire and fascinate.
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