Insects and pests have developed a wide variety of methods to stay out of sight and mind of predators and those that wish them harm. The downside to this adaptability is that they use these methods as a way to fool unsuspecting homeowners and take up residence. The following are the main methods pests stay unseen or try to fool any onlooking eyes.
Color Similarities or Camouflage
Many insects and pests have a color variation between different species to maintain a form of “camouflage” to stay safe from other predators. Typically, one insect or animal will have a colorway indicating that it is lethal and another species will take a similar colorway to confuse predators – and thus stay safe.
The most famous examples of color variation (and copying it) are the Coral Snake and Scarlet King Snake. The Coral Snake is highly venomous and lethal, whereas the Scarlet King Snake is harmless – the difference between them is minute and hard to discern. The Coral Snake has a repeating black, red and yellow pattern – as does the Scarlet King Snake – but the red and yellow on the Coral Snake touch, whereas the red touches black on the Scarlet King Snake.
The following sayings are helpful to remember with these snakes:
“Red touches yellow kills a fellow”
“Red touches black is a friend of Jack”
Another way pests stay out of sight is they evolve to look like other species that they are unrelated to. The most common confusion of insects is the difference between a bumblebee, hornet and a wasp. They all have similar colorways and seem to be the same, so how can you tell the difference when it matters most?
Bumblebees are fuzzy; round in shape; the smallest in size of the three (they’re only ¼ inch large!); and have a yellow-black colorway. They are relatively harmless, as they die when they sting you, and they have no intention of bringing you physical harm.
Wasps do not have “fur” like bumblebees; are narrow in shape; larger than bumblebees (¼ inch larger); and are black with either white, red or orange markings. They are aggressive and will attack when they feel threatened.
Hornets are the largest and most dangerous of the three – they will attack and will continue to sting until they are satisfied. Additionally, they are wider and either yellow or orange in color.
If you are unsure which of the three insects you’re dealing with, avoiding all three when possible is the best option.
Change in Appearance
Some insects change their appearance as they get older and go through the different stages of metamorphosis. The cicada has the largest variation in its appearance as it gets older. When it is still within its egg, it looks like a clear-ish grain of rice. Once it hatches (now called a “nymph”), it looks similar to a termite or a small white ant.
The most important part of their nymph phase is that they will stay in the dirt and are not a threat to you or your home (unlike a termite)! If you see an insect that looks like a termite that is in the dirt instead of a tree, leave it be – it is a baby cicada and poses no threat.
Another insect that changes appearances is the simple butterfly or moth! They start out looking like a normal worm (the “larvae” stage) and once they emerge from their pupa shell the difference of if it is a butterfly or moth is apparent.
Butterflies are large; will hold their wings in a large, vertical fashion; and have colorful patterns over their wings and back.
Moths are small; will hold their wings in a tent-like fashion that hides their abdomen at the same time, and are gray and patternless.