Anthropomorphisms in the Insect World

Martha O'Kennon

One of the best parts about photographing tiny insects and spiders is how many times you can use your imagination to see the photo as if the creature seems to be enacting a human thought or action. Wasps, for instance, often have distinctive face patterns and they actually seem to be saying humanoid things. Their bodies are limber and they can also assume postures that remind us of human actions or feelings. Spiders, much to most people's surprise, may have an abdomen with markings that look like a human face, and so, like the wasps and other creatures, the combination of posture with these abdominal patterns adds up to a depiction of a human mood or action. In almost every insect or spider family, there will be individuals that mimic us and our worldly society. You have to take a lot of shots in order to find a few surprises but it is worth it to see the results.

One of the wasp species that is known to be able to distinguish the face of a comrade is the Northern Paper Wasp, Polistes fuscatus. Here are two of them parodying us. The second one knew I was there taking pictures, and decided I was just a piece of the scenery and turned to preening its arms and feelers. (Number 3 is actually a Vespula germanica female- worker or queen.)

Now what did I do with that damned thing?

I can't do a thing with these antennae!

I'm in the SHOWER!

This common house spider has a "face" on its back that bears an eery resemblance to a figure frequently in the news these days. Second is a Northern Crab spider, and third a jumping spider.

Guess who won the Election!

Because I'm the red queen and I say so!

So glad you could COME, Mr and Mrs Fly!

Here is a grasshopper seen face on. (This is its real face.) The second one's "face" is actually its real eyes with a face pattern continued down its thorax. In other words, same idea as a spider's human face - on its back. Third is a katydid nymph. The "foamy" patch on its cheeks disappears as the Katydid becomes an adult.

Who, me? Stay after school?

I know Nossing! Nossing!

I haven't finished shaving!

Treehoppers are a great place to look for human mimics. The first one is a green buffalo treehopper adult, the second - cute little nymphs of the two-spotted treehopper. Number three is the adult of number two, looking more like a dinosaur than a person.

They said I'm too little to be on their team...

Kittens about to get stuck up a tree.

The mighty brontosaurus surveys its kingdom

These two male northern paper wasps meet in mid-air. Obviously each of them thought the other was a female. The one on top is drawing back its legs to avoid a confrontation with a not-friend to say the least. The lower one has opened its arms in a typical human baby startle reflex.

What are YOU doing here? What are YOU doing here?

Here we have a flesh-eating fly (they get rid of dead bugs), a scorpion fly, and a feathery legged Tricopoda fly. This last one refers to the old TV show "Lassie".

Oh God! Those humans are ugggly!

Would I look better with a nose job?

Gotta find Timmy.. Gotta find Timmy!

Here we have one of the cutest leafhopper nymphs in the world, and next an adult of the same species. The third one, a candy-striped leafhopper, is carrying around a globe of liquid. Ask no questions!

Please sir, can I have some more?

I always draw the short stick!

It's the seltzer man!

Sometimes the photographee is acting out another species of animal or vegetable. This Rhubarb weevil (a kind of beetle) looks just like a fruit. The six-spotted orbweaver is posing as the USS Enterprise. And the Goldenrod Soldier Beetle does resemble a Disney character, doesn't it?

Don't step on me!

The USS Enterprise caught in the Tholian Web

Hey, Mickey! It's your pal Goofy!

I have not had any Nay responses to whether these pictures might be too much for children, so have added them into the master list.

Here are a common house spider, a pair of common house spiders, and a twenty-spotted lady beetle.

I tell you, Frank, no more in vitro!

El Toro got into the neighbor's pasture!

I will be adding other pictures as I go through the rogues' gallery of beasties in compromising positions!

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copyright Martha O'Kennon 2016