A researcher assists a documentary crew filming spiders on a beach in BC. The researcher is sitting down with three documentarians, while a camera operator films.

Catherine Scott assisting a documentary crew with filming black widows at Island View Beach in BC.

An upcoming “Nature of Things” documentary on CBC will feature several prominent Canadian entomologists/arachnologists talking about mating and courtship of various arthropods.  Maydianne Andrade, Andrew Mason, and Luciana Baruffaldi from UTSC, Catherine Scott from McGill, Darryl Gwynne from UTM are among the scientists featured in the documentary. Below is the press release.  Check it out March 10!

Carrion beetles mating on the ground.

Some mating carrion beetles (not featured in the documentary)



There are 10 quintillion of them on this planet and their numbers keep growing so they must be up to something, right? They are. But how do bugs actually mate?  In this new documentary filmmakers use cutting-edge camera technology –and a healthy sense of humour–to take viewers into the little-known and rarely seen world of insect sexual activity.  What the bugs do is surprising, sometimes borderline tender or even shockingly brutal.  Bug Sex premieres on The Nature of Things, Friday, March 10 at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT) on CBC and the free CBC Gem streaming service.

Why should the sex lives of bugs interest us?  “If human beings ceased to exist, the planet would continue just fine,” explains Andrew Gregg, who made Bug Sex.  “But eliminate all the insects and arachnids and the world’s ecology would collapse.”  He notes that seeing how insects breed and go to incredible lengths to ensure their genes carry on is a window into how evolution works.

With intriguing visuals, Bug Sex looks how a wide variety of spiders, crickets and flies breed, everything from black widow spiders to Pacific field crickets.  Viewers will be astonished at the mating habits of fruit flies and at what the male black widow spider sacrifices for the sake of a sexual union.  Then there is the kinky behavior of the wolf spider with its sexual cannibalism and just wait until you see the courting technique of dance flies!   “Looking at the bug world is like stepping into an alternate reality that exists all around us,” Gregg notes.

To guide viewers into this world, Gregg assembled a number of insect biologists, and he feels that today with more women scientists in the field there is a greater understanding of the female half of the insect population.  He points out that many bug scientists are actually partnered couples who share a mutual interest.  Like Maydianne Andrade and husband Andrew Mason from the University of Toronto who we join as they observe monster haglids in Alberta.  “We are both interested in the libido of bugs,” Dr Andrade explains.

 Joining them in this documentary are Marlene Zuk and her husband John Rotenberry as they seek field crickets in Hawaii, and on Vancouver Island we find Catherine Scott and partner Sean McCann looking out for black widow spiders.  Bug Sex even ventures to Uruguay where solo scientist Anita Aisenberg explores the unconventional mating rituals of wolf spiders.

Darryl Gwynn explores the machinations of tree cricket courting and then the intricacies of how they actually get it together.  “Insects are so diverse,” he says.  “And as the years go by they are coming up with more and more novel systems—new insect systems that do bizarrely different things.”  But is it possible that insects derive any pleasure during their couplings?  Dr. Lisha Shao at the University of Delaware provides evidence that the lively and intoxicated fruit fly is actually having a good time.

Bug Sex is a unique opportunity to glimpse into the fascinating and hidden world of the tiny creatures that are all around us.  It is an invitation to be a bug voyeur!


Bug Sex is written and directed by Andrew Gregg and co-produced with Deborah Parks.  It is made by Red Trillium Films in association with CBC.

For CBC: Sally Catto is General Manager, Entertainment, Scripted, and Sport; Jennifer Dettman is Executive Director, Unscripted Content; Sandra Kleinfeld is Senior Director, Documentaries; Sue Dando & Lesley Birchard, Executives in Charge of Production.

MEDIA CONTACT:  David McCaughna   davidmcc2@gmail.com   416-859-1004