Now that my native wildlife garden is becoming established, I have more time to sit back and observe all the different types of insects that visit my yard. In the last two years, I’ve been absolutely amazed with the amount of new insects many of which are trying to mimic something else.
Mimicry is defined as “a form of deception where one insect evolves a superficial resemblance to another resulting in a distinct advantage to the mimic, which usually enjoys protection or better access to food for either itself or its offspring. This does not happen by conscious effort on the part of the insect. The successful characteristics gradually evolve over thousands of years through a process of natural selection. Characters that evolve and increase chances of survival against predation are passed onto the following generations.” (Biodiversity Exlorer website)
Perhaps the best example of mimicry in the insect world is the Viceroy Butterfly, the black and orange coloration which is almost identical to the Monarch Butterfly. Because the Monarch Butterfly solely feeds upon Milkweed species, they build toxic alkaloids in their bodies making them unpalatible to predators.
Many fly species are amazing mimics too. Common flower visitors, Syprhid or Flower flies look like a bee or wasp with their black and yellow coloration. They can freely visit flowers for pollen and nectar dressed like wasps.
Robber flies, much larger than Syrphid flies and are voracious predators of other insects. Many are clothed like bumble bees, with stout hairy bodies. They will fly around in the open sunny areas of our yard, land on a leaf and wait for their prey to pass by. They will often catch insects much larger than themselves such as dragonflies.
I first spotted a Stilt Legged Fly last year in the yard. They’re
hard to miss because they wave their white forelegs up and down resembling moving antennae. This may be a ploy to mimic several types of Ichneumon wasps who have white markings on their antennae.
Other flower visiting flies look like thread waisted wasps such as this Sphegina species.
Even flower visiting beetles may have protection from mimicry such as the Locust Borer Beetle, a common late summer flower visitor.
I encourage you to take a closer look at the insect visitors in your landscape, you’ll be surprised how many are not what the seem.
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