It’s well known that many species of animal engage in homosexual behaviour, but not so well known that many bugs do too. And now researchers have discovered why: it’s quicker and safer than working out what gender their partner is.

‘Insects and spiders mate quick and dirty,’ according to Dr Inon Scharf of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Zoology. ‘The cost of taking the time to identify the gender of mates – or the cost of hesitation – appears to be greater than the cost of making some mistakes.’

Homosexual behaviour has been shown to have evolutionary benefits in both mammals and birds, such as providing practice for young adults and strengthening community bonds, but researchers have been wondering how the acts could help bugs.

Previous suggestions have been that it could help bugs ‘prepare for heterosexual courtship, dispose of old sperm, discourage predators or distract competitors.’

The Tel Aviv team decided that the bugs didn’t benefit from the behaviour at all, but rather simply sometimes confuse males with females. About 80 percent of the observed homosexual behaviour was a result of misidentification. Males that have recently mated may carry the female scent and therefore be confused for one.

‘Homosexual behaviour may be linked to being more active, a better forager, or a better competitor,’ said Dr Scharf. ‘It’s part of a package of traits that leaves the insect better adapted overall.’