We've caught them in the act. The male has climbed up on top of the female and is facing in the same direction as her. They won't stay like this though. He will need to take up a retroconjugate mating position... (er.. just for all those male Dust-Mites out there who want to know what the heck they've been doing with their partners: retro means 'backwords', and conjugate means 'sexually unite')
Yup. Just as I thought. She will become very quiet and immobile now, probably due to a reaction to a male pheromone - (er... that's the stuff Dust-Mites use instead of after-shave or perfume to influence the opposite sex).
Us humans have pheromones too ...
(the ones Nature gave me, seem to be a cheap imitation brand. ED.)
Lover-boy looks like he's showing
off, seemingly defying gravity by not falling off, even though his current
stance looks like he should do. Well, he could hang on all night if he
wished because if you turn him over you'll find a secret on the underside
of his abdomen: paranal suckers. The male uses these to maintain
his position on the female's back.
I guess the male dustmites out there
want to start comparing notes right now at the sight of this. Our camera
has picked out the male Dust-Mite's copulatory organ half way down his
body on the ventral surface (his belly): two paragynal lips through
which the penis (blush) protudes due to haemolymphatic pressure (er...
that's like for us men but in mites, a 'liquid' carries oxygen directly
through the body instead of blood cells - and the increased flow of liquid
to the penis initiates its erection).
In time honoured fashion, if he's shown us what he's got tucked away down there, I guess it's only fair if the female mite does the same and shows us 'hers'.
The female has a genital/anal pore.
The male sexual organ will penetrate here during copulation (mating), and
after insemination - the male dustmite will abandon the female.
Without a knowledge of 'family-planning'
techniques, the success of copulation and insemination is left to Nature.
The female Dust-Mite will use her Ovipositor located centrally in
her ventral surface (her belly) to extrude and 'lay' any eggs that develop.
These are white and relatively large. They will 'hatch' after 2 or 3 days
of incubation depending on environmental conditions.
After seeing how Dust-Mites seem to contain all the right bits for 'mating' similar in many senses to us humans you might like to consider how they can get away with eating and sexual activities night after night in our beds, on our carpets, and in other places around our homes without us noticing a darn thing going on. Well if 72 of them paired up for a Dust-Mite orgy and were painted with green glow-paint, if they formed up as rows of couples 6x6 with the males mounted on the females - then they would look something like this green squidge: # which should give you some idea of how small they actually are. A Dust-Mite is approximately one third of a millimetre in length - just, and I mean just visible to the naked eye under good lighting conditions.
Maybe you would like to see a
movie close-up of a dust-mite in our movie
Cover artwork, style, and composition by Maurice Smith (Mol, Microscopy-UK).