Ants (and bees and wasps) use their antennae to taste their food before they eat it.


Defences

Bugs are close to the bottom of the food chain. Almost everything eats them—including humans! To survive this dangerous world of predators they have evolved ingenious ways of defending themselves.

Active Defence

Many bugs are heavily armed and will fight back with a vengeance. Some insects have sharp fangs, stings and claws. Others have armour that predators cannot break through. The bombardier beetle mixes together a concoction of chemicals in a chamber in its rear. When threatened, the beetle fires an explosion of boiling liquid at its attacker.

Warning Colours

Many bugs are brightly coloured to advertise that they are poisonous. Red colours or orange with black frequently indicate a bad-tasting meal. Predators learn very quickly after an unpleasant experience that animals with these colours should be avoided. The bugs make themselves poisonous or bad-tasting by eating plants that have these properties, and then concentrate the nasty chemicals in their bodies.

Mimicry

Some harmless bugs have evolved to look like dangerous bugs, mimicking the colour patterns of venomous or poisonous bugs to fool predators. Predators that have learned to avoid the genuinely dangerous bugs will also avoid their mimics. There are insects that mimic biting ants, stinging scorpions, spiders and even snakes. Barbed spines or other vicious-looking outgrowths on an insect may be completely harmless.

Startling

Some bugs confuse their predators by flashing bright colours, large eyespots or scary faces when attacked. Large eyespots on the wings of butterflies are used to both startle predators and draw their attention away from the vital parts of the body.

Camouflage

Many bugs are incredibly well camouflaged and are almost impossible to find when they keep still. Some have bold irregular patterns that make it difficult to see their body shape against backgrounds. Others have bodies that perfectly resemble objects in their environment, such as leaves, sticks, thorns and even bird droppings.

Spiny leaf insects have amazing camouflage. As their name suggests, adult spiny leaf insects look exactly like dead leaves. They are almost impossible to see amongst dry gum leaves. Their camouflage is so good that they even behave like leaves and sway in the breeze.


Classification
Beetles
Moths & Butterflies
 Leaf Insects  Grasshoppers
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Cup Moth, link to large image Active defence


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Brightly coloured Grasshopper, link to large image Warning colours



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Spiny Leaf Insect on lichen, link to large image Camouflage
© Museum Victoria Australia