Image: Doug Aghassi
Only green as far as the eye can see – did you notice the grasshopper?
We’ve portrayed insects before whose survival strategy is to scare predators by making scary eyes at them (moths and butterflies) or by warning their enemies of their poisonous qualities (beetles and bugs). Today, we’re focusing on insects that stay still and blend in so perfectly with their environment that predators simply overlook them. The following examples show that insects never cease to amaze.
Image: Adrian Pingstone
Can you spot the insect here?
The Dead Leave mantis is not one species of praying mantis but various ones that rely on mimicking dead leaves for survival.
A cicada, perfectly camouflaged on a pine tree.
In nature, sticking out is only good if one is a) poisonous or b) a predator. Even for the latter, blending in helps when hunting prey – just think of a lion being hidden in the tall grass of the savannah.
Image: L. Shyamal
Notice how the leaf’s lichen patches are matched by this grasshopper nymph in Wayanad, Kerala, India.
The Malayan jungle nymph (Heteropteryx dilatata) is green in colour and though it blends in well with its surroundings, the females especially are very aggressive and should be approached with caution.
Even the leaf’s shape is mimicked – the children’s stick insect.
Found in Canberra mimicking the eucalyptus leaves it feeds on, the specimen of stick insect here is called a children’s stick insect (Tropidoderus childrenii).
Image: Wilfried Berns
Phyllium celebicum or walking leaf
Phasmatodea is the order of insects generally known as stick insects. Some have stick like bodies; others look more like leaves like this one here.
Image: Ryan Somma
Can you spot the Walking Stick insect?
Common to all stick insects is that they are masters of camouflage and therefore very difficult to spot. The only giveaway is when they move, finally. No wonder then that their name is derived from the Greek phasma, meaning phantom or apparition.
Image: Don DeBold
Camouflage in beige and brown: a sand grasshopper captured in Point Reyes, CA
As colouration is genetic, only what works will be passed on from generation to generation. The fact that insects can also “play dead” very convincingly or be as still as a rock or leaf further increases their chances of survival.
Like a bee to the pod
Some animals are more sophisticated than others when it comes to hiding and camouflage. Insects, given their relative size and sheer numbers, don’t disappoint in this department. Most animals use camouflage to their advantage and for the ultimate goal: survival and reproduction.
Image: John Moss
A well-disguised Spiny Rainforest Katydid
The Spiny Rainforest Katydid (Phricta aberrans) is one of the world’s most unusual looking insects with its thorny body and almost reptilian look. It is a native of northern New South Wales and southeast Queensland in Australia and was already classified in 1895.