How Insects Employ Mimicry To Avoid Predators

Recently a playground swarming with striped menacing looking insects caused panic among children and teachers. Eventually, a team of entomologists were called in to identify the flying creatures. It turned out that the children and teachers had all made fools of themselves since the scary looking flying bugs were really just harmless hoverflies. Then again, it may be unfair to call everyone in the playground that day foolish since these hoverflies did not look like ordinary hoverflies.

Large sized hoverflies have evolved black and yellow stripes, which give them the appearance of predator like bees or yellow jackets. This is a pretty lucky mutation that has allowed them to adapt well to their environment. Without the disguise, hoverflies would become prey to just about every kind of bird, but why are only large hoverflies endowed with the striped disguise?

It turns out that birds only consider eating large hoverflies since smaller hoverflies would not be worth the effort for such a small meal. Therefore large hoverflies, which birds love to eat, need some sort of protection from their flying predator enemies, and that is where the bee and yellow jacket mimicry comes in. Birds obviously do not like the feeling of being stung by predators such as bees, yellow jackets and other wasps, so, naturally they avoid eating those types of predatory flying insects and instead go for hoverflies, unless of course they look like bees or wasps. If you sit in front of  garden for a period of time you will likely catch one of these hoverflies fooling birds with their intimidating colors.

Which other types of animals use mimicry to fool predators?

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Smithereen Pest Management provides IPM pest services to residential and commercial clients in Kansas, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Missouri.
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