Insects with Perfect CamouflageInsects with Perfect Camouflage

    “How Insects Mastered the Art of Concealment: 5 Perfect Examples”  ,The insect world is full of creatures that have practically elevated the principles of camouflage and concealment to an art form. For both predators and prey, camouflage is crucial survival toolwith coloration, patterns, and even physical shape playing a role in helping insects hide from their hunters—or helping hunters hide from their unsuspecting prey until it’s time to strike.

Many insects are particularly good not only at blending into their natural habitat, but also at outright mimicry. They have evolved colors, patterns, and other characteristics that allow them to resemble other creatures or objects with astonishing accuracy. For predators, this is usually something innocuous or familiar. For prey, the goal is to imitate something unpleasant or potentially dangerous to a predator.

It would take a book to list all the amazing insects that have evolved to hide in plain sight. But here we take a look at five of our favorites.

1. Stick insects

Can you find the cane in this picture? (Credit: ideation90/Shutterstock)

You have to appreciate the irony that the first insect on this particular list is perhaps the most famous. Being well known for your ability to hide in plain sight seems counterintuitive, but it is when you’re a stick insect or caneas they are also known.

Belonging to the order Phasmodea, stick insects live on nearly every continent in the world—there are about 3,000 different species—and unsurprisingly tend to live in forested habitats, where they do an amazing job of mimicking sticks, twigs, and sometimes leaves to avoid predators. Ranging from as little as half an inch to as long two legssticks are harmless to humans and some people even keep them as pets.

However, in large numbers, herbivorous insects can cause significant damage to the ecosystems where they feed, defoliating plants and even trees. For this reason, many countries, including the US, have banned the transport or retention of non-native stickleback species.

2. Leaf beetles

(Credit: olko1975/Shutterstock)

It’s not often that modern entomologists discover a new example of an insect that engages in mimicry or camouflage, but in 2018 researchers did analysis of leaf beetles and came to a surprising realization: while other insects, such as the aptly named giant leaf bug or Indian leaf butterflymimic the appearance of leaves for camouflage, leaf beetles in this study are seen to convert their food source, actual sheet, in the form of camouflage.

Read more: Do insects have feelings and consciousness?

The study authors note that while feeding, adult beetles become more difficult to spot simply by eating holes in leaves in a very specific way. They created multiple holes of relatively equal size, proportional to their body. “The presence of burrows makes visual search for predators more difficult,” the researchers note, giving the industrious beetle a chance to escape when an attack is imminent.

3. A bee-like robber fly

Who is the bee and who is the fly disguised as a bee? (Credit: Paul Reeves Photography/Shutterstock)

Also known as killer flies, robber flies are spectacular predators. They are fast and deadly, capable of catching and killing prey much larger than themselves. They can also do their dirty work in flight, which requires an impressive degree of speed and skill. Although they do not hunt as large prey as humans, they are more than capable of impressing one. If you get in the way of a robber fly, it can bite you and hurt you—flies produce toxic saliva that you’ll definitely feel once they inject it into you. On the other hand, saliva won’t paralyze you or dissolve your insides like it does with insects, so consider yourself lucky.

There are nearly 7,000 different species of robber flies in the world – about 1,000 in North America alone. And while they have all perfected at least the art of killing a few kinds of robber flies have also done a masterful job of adapting to mimic the coloration, stripes, and appearance of the bees and wasps they eat. This adaptation is a two-for-one deal: a wolf’s disguise in sheep’s clothing allows them to hunt near hives and blend in with their prey. Meanwhile, assuming the appearance of a bee or wasp is a great visual bluff to ward off the fly’s predators.

4. Mantis

A praying mantis that plays like an orchid. (Credit: Jamikorn Sooktaramorn)

Like the cane, the mantis is another hall of famer in the annals of insect camouflage. You’ll find more than 2,000 different species of praying mantises around the world, and most of them have evolved coloration that helps them blend in perfectly with their surroundings.

Read more: For the first time, a praying mantis was caught fishing

But some species of praying mantis camouflage themselves a lot seriously. The so-called colorful praying mantises, for example, can physically resemble different types of flowers (such as orchids) and will sway in the breeze like a flower to complete the effect. They even can absorb UV light the way plants attract UV-sensitive insects. Other types of praying mantises can also look like twigs and even dead leaves.

In 2013, researchers in Peru they came across what they thought was a strange looking wasp. It was actually an orange-red praying mantis – before unknown species — which apparently imitates not only the color and shape of the wasp, but also copies the typical movements of the wasp. Talk about commitment to the role.

5. Hummingbird Moth

(Credit: aabeele/Shutterstock)

As impressive as the ability to imitate sticks, leaves or other bugs with startling accuracy is, some insects play the imitation game at championship levels by mimicking other animals, including reptiles and birds. A few caterpillars, for example, can look oddly like a dangerous snake — right down to a fake punch — when threatened.

But if mimicry were an Olympic event, all the gold medals would belong to moths. A number of moth species are known to mimic everything from spiders and wasps to frogs and owls – yes, owls. As impressive as this is, our favorite of the moth imitators is the charmer hummingbird moth.

As the name suggests, moths look and even move like hummingbirds, right down to their distinctive flight form. Like the birds they resemble, these moths enjoy nectar, which they drink through their long snouts. They are also good pollinators and it is useful to have them around your flower beds. In fact, you could have hummingbird moths in your garden right now, hiding in plain sight, like the masters of disguise that they and so many other insects are.

Read more: Scientists organize battles between bats and moths

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