Tiny Mimics

The world’s military spend billions of dollars a year on sophisticated ways of hiding soldiers and hardware from the enemy. But insects and spiders have mastered the arts of camouflage and mimicry for millions of years. These macro photographs, taken by Singaporean photographer Nicky Bay, show the extraordinary lengths that insects and spiders will go to look like something else – or simply disappear from view. Like all other living creatures, insects and spiders want to eat and stay alive. In the teeming jungles of southeast Asia, that’s a daunting prospect. There’s always something that wants to eat you. So evolution has endowed creatures with remarkable survival skills. Camouflage and mimicry are two of them. Insects and spiders use camouflage to blend in with their surroundings, thus hiding from predators in the hope that if they can’t see you, they can’t eat you. The tree stump orb-weaver spider, for example, can make itself look like tree bark. Conversely, predators use camouflage as an ambush technique, in the hope that if prey can’t see you, they’ll become your next meal. For example, the bird dung crab spider has a body pattern and odour similar to that of bird droppings. An unwary fly, attracted to bird droppings, lands on the camouflaged crab spider – and that’s it for the fly. Instead of using camouflage to blend in with their surroundings, some spiders and insects use mimicry to disguise themselves as aggressive or poisonous specimens. Since ladybirds are unpalatable to predators, some edible beetles and spiders have adopted the bright warning colours and markings of true ladybirds. Nicky Bay, age 34, is the manager of a Singapore Game Studio who’s fascinated by these bizarre creatures: “On weekdays, I dabble with games,” he says. “On weekends, I go trudging through nature reserves with my camera. It’s always a challenge to find camouflaged subjects, and that heightens the exhilaration in spotting one. “Mimicry is no less fascinating. The mimicry is often so realistic that it has me duped when I first spot that subject. Who would've thought that spiders would pretend to be ants or ladybirds? Who would imagine that some bugs collect carcasses for protection?”

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