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Saturday, 1 August 2009

Insect Camouflage in Nature

Many insects blend into their surroundings so completely that it is difficult to see them. They possess some form of disguise called camouflage, for many reasons, one of them is to deceive predators. Camouflage is one of the secret weapons that these insects have to defend themselves from being captured by their natural enemies.

Among the beautiful surroundings that nature has to offer us, there are many disguised insects. Some “caterpillars” carry out the shape and color of the leaf so perfectly that it makes the caterpillar seem as if it is part of the leaf. They can move freely among the leaves without being noticed. Another interesting insect is the “leaf insect” which has a flat body and, as its name suggests, looks remarkably like a leaf in appearance. The wings, antennae, and legs are all leaf-shaped too. Its color varies from wine red to grass green, with shadings of brown. During the daytime hours it is extremely still – so still that it looks like loose or dead leaf on the ground. With the coming of darkness, it starts to move, and during the night it moves around freely.

Insects are also outstanding imitators. Imitation is one of the ways they have to watch themselves from their natural enemies. Some insects take on the appearance of another animal to deceive a predator. This kind of imitation is called mimicry. The owlet moth provides a fascinating example of mimicry. The markings on the lower part of its wings look like the two big eyes of an owl. When the wings are folded and the moth is relaxing, the design is not visible. But when the moth is threatened by a predator, which is usually a bird, it unfolds its wings and the two eyes suddenly come into sight like the eyes of an owl. Startled, the predator flies away, this helps the owlet moth gain a few seconds to fly away as well.

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