Crazy Camouflage and Maniac Mimicry
You have seen camouflage. If you are a deer hunter or army veteran, you have worn camouflage to hide from prey or blend in to your surroundings. The insect world has taken camouflage to the extreme. If you are an insect and you want to hide from a predator, you employ mimicry. Mimicry is when one critter tries to look like something else. It all boils down to survival and when you are an insect in a tough world you need all the help you can get. Katydids are shaped like leaf, while walking sticks look like a discarded stick. Some bugs have taken mimicry to the extreme. Here are two examples of crazy camouflage and maniac mimicry.
Crazy Camouflage: Bird Poo
When you go outside to start your car in the morning, how many times have you seen a big splash of bird poo across your windshield or hood? No matter the source, excrement is nasty, especially when it is on something you own. The pearly wood nymph butterfly takes mimicry to the extreme. When it lies still on a leaf, it looks like a splat of… you guessed it, bird poop. No predator in its right mind is going to after that.
Sometimes, even Mother Nature has the mentality of a ten year old boy. If you want to spot your own bird crap moth, you are in luck if you live in the eastern United States. If you have willows, primrose, herbs or grapes in your yard you might see the Pearly wood nymph caterpillar, chewing happily away. Once the caterpillar turns into a butterfly, you will get to see flying bird poo in all its splendor. Next time you spot a pile of bird feces on your window, maybe you will get lucky and it will fly away.
Maniac Mimicry: More than Camouflage
The Kerengga Ant-like Jumper is not satisfied with simple camouflage. Have you ever heard the term, “when in Rome”? The Kerengga Ant-like Jumper is a jumping spider that looks like the ant it loves to eat. That would be like dressing up as a deer when you go deer hunting. The spider is the same size, shape and color as the weaver ants. The only way you could tell the difference is by looking at the number of legs. You will need a magnifying glass. The ants have six legs, while the spider will have eight.
Weaver ants will wander past thinking that the spider is just another one of them. Every once in a while the jumping spider picks off a few ants, fills itself with a juicy insect meal and waits until it is hungry again. Weaver ants have a painful bite and a terrible taste; other predators stay away from the little honey colored ants. This adds in a second layer of protection for the Kerengga Ant-like Jumper. It stays close to the ants, and predators will leave the spider alone because they think it is a terrible tasting ant.