On many occasions, we have been confronted with news of our young generations drinking themselves silly, and generally becoming useless in the society. The effects of overdrinking have been numerous. But the one thing that has been mentioned with a bit of bitterness is the fact that the youth, especially male, have been unable to have children. They have been unable to marry, procreate and help to maintain the human species. If I were to peel off the bitter lemon, I would say in summary that those being talked about miss only one thing – to be able to lead a normal family life. Good food. They can drink all they want, but have enough food to eat, and children will be made – because love, or mating as it were, requires energy. A lot of energy. Nature demonstrates that fact clearly.
We know, from this very column, that the cricket sings by rubbing their wings over some kind of teeth found under their wings. The intensity of the vibration changes the tone of the sound. The tone can tell us about the temperatures around the area where the cricket is. But few of us know that the songs change when the cricket is in love. In his everyday life, the male cricket, who actually is the only one who sings, uses 47 per cent of the teeth on his file to sing a normal song. When he is in love, and needs to advertise that fact and get himself a mate; he uses 87 per cent of the teeth when rubbing them with his wings. Of course he would need more energy to perform this task, and what must follow to complete the intentions.
While he is singing, the female lingers near and gives him an encouraging nudge from time to time. Finally he stops scrapping his wings together and lifts them up. If she has been sufficiently moved by the songs, she climbs on his back and begins to eat out of a cuplike gland placed just behind the joints of his wings. The gland secretes a substance that she finds delicious, and can be compared with a box of chocolate to your mate. The process of singing, nudging and eating the gift from the gland can continue for half hour, before the male finally goes silent, and mating takes place. That requires lots of energy. Which calls for enough good food for the male.
There is often a connection in nature between sex and the pleasure of eating. A mixture of love and nutrition is the practice used by some insects to solicit coupling, especially the species where females eat up the males immediately after the mating has taken place. There is this fly that fetches a meal to give as a gift to the female. He knows the consequences of his love search. He could pay with his life, the pleasures he seeks from the female fly. So he gets the gift, which may be a smaller fly or a petal of a flower full of nectar. He proceeds to wrap the gift by delicately spinning silk secreted from a gland in his forelegs. He formally presents the gift to the chosen one. He does not wait for the female to exclaim over the delicacy of his gift, but proceeds to mate with her in a sort of a hurry as she unwraps what was brought to her. He uses that ingenuity to procreate, and still save himself to do that again. All this requires energy.
In East Africa, there is no definite mating seasons for the animals in the wild. It happens all the time as long as there is enough food to eat. We can only talk about peaks when the mating activities increase within the species. This normally happens after the long rain seasons. A month after the rains, there is plenty of good grass carpeting the plains. The grazers are happy and feeding all the time.
Mating activities increases as food is available. As this is happening, the predators have enough foliage to hide into and hunt the grazers. There are many grazers at such times and they are busy eating and mating. Hunting becomes easy and the predators eat to their fill, and their mating activities picks up as well. Think love, think energy.
Steve Kinuthia is a veteran professional safari guide and the proprietor of Bushman Adventures Limited.