It’s fun to dress up and pretend you’re someone else, at least for a little while. But in the bug world looking different isn’t just for fun, it’s a way of life. Being in disguise helps insects hunt for food and stay safe. Some grasshoppers, spiders and caterpillars have a unique way of keeping “undercover.”
It’s a Stick…It’s a Leaf…It’s a Grasshopper?
The grasshoppers we’ve all seen aren’t too shy about hip-hopping and bopping around the long grass. But some of their far-away relatives need to be safer. The Monkey-Hoppers of the tropical rain forest use the shape and color of leaves in order to hunt and hide. Other grasshoppers known as Stick Grasshoppers have long, thin, bumpy brown bodies that look exactly like twigs. The Pygmy Grasshopper is also good at looking like a mossy log or the stony ground it lives on. In fact, they are so good at blending in you’ll probably never see one; at least not that you know of.
Crab Spider Surprise
It’s no secret that spiders catch bugs in their webs, but when it comes to the Crab Spider, he’s got a few extra-sneaky secret weapons. To catch bees, flies, or moths, the crab spider’s front legs are very strong with a claw on the end, something like a crab. So when a bug comes near all it has to do is reach out and snap it up. If that isn’t enough, this funny fellow matches his colors to any flower he’s waiting on. However, patterns, dots and colors aren’t the only thing this rain forest spider can do. One spider actually looks like a big blob of bird droppings. Yuck! How’s that for a disguise?
Creepy Caterpillar Camouflage
Caterpillars need to keep safe from their many predators, so they have adapted different ways to keep hidden.
The Elephant-hawk moth caterpillar is large (3 in) and gets it’s name, not from its size, but rather from the way it will curve its body into a trunk-like posture when it feels threatened. This caterpillar also has unique markings all along its body that resembles a snake. It has a large head and four big eye-like patches that will scare off most hunting birds - at least for a little while.
The Wavy-lined Emerald moth caterpillar is one of the more fascinating and unusual of its species. This guy will actually take out pieces of the plant or flower that it’s munching on and stick them into it’s own back. This technique is very effective in keeping this creepy caterpillar camouflaged from most everything.
The next time you’re out for a nature walk look very carefully. That twig or pretty flower you spot may just be an undercover insect.
For more information on these and other bugs, check out your local library, a bug museum or the Internet.