Rosalind Murray and Darryl Gwynne with a film crew

U of T researchers explore how bugs get busy in new CBC's The Nature of Things documentary

“Nature is amazing in what it generates in terms of diversity same thing goes for the mating game,” University of Toronto Mississauga professor Darryl Gwynne says in Bug Sex, a documentary from CBC’s The Nature of Things.

Researchers from the UTM and U of T Scarborough were featured in the March 10 episode hosted by David Suzuki. The Red Trillium Films-produced documentary is currently streaming on CBC Gem.

Gwynne, a UTM professor emeritus of biology, and UTM assistant professor of biology Rosalind Murray, along with UTSC biology professors Andrew Mason and Maydianne Andrade, offered insights from their respective research on sexual reproduction in the insect world.

“Sex in bugs is fascinating, gruesome, counterintuitive,” says Andrade, a renowned expert on the mating habits of cannibalistic spiders. She came up with the original concept for the documentary and was the story editor.

“It’s ridiculous in its complexity. Ridiculous in how extreme it is. And most people know nothing about it.”

After the premiere, Murray appeared on CBC Radio’s Fresh Air to discuss her research into the sexual activity of an Ontario species of dance flies.

“You can see the pairs form, you can see the males try and mate with a female, you can see the males hunting over on the stream. It’s a lot of fun to watch,” Murray said on Fresh Air.

Mason, chair of the department of biological sciences at UTSC, studies bug acoustics and behaviour. He looked at the reproductive habits of the monster haglid, a large cricket that emits an unusually loud mating call.

Catherine Scott, who completed her PhD under Andrade at UTSC and is currently a postdoctoral researcher at McGill University, also took part in the documentary.


Watch Bug Sex (It's Complicated) on The Nature of Things via CBC Gem


Further coverage:

Bug Sex: How the insects in your home are getting busy beside the bananas (Toronto Star)

All the lust you cannot see (The Tyee)