Mimics and Mystery Flyers

Bee, Bird, or something else? (photo: Wikimedia commons, BY-SA-2.0)

Have you ever seen an animal that looks somehow like a completely different one? There are actually quite a lot of these mimics out there, hiding among flowers and bumblebees in plain sight! On the banks of the Kennebec River in Maine, you can find something that looks like a hummingbird and bee mixed up together. What do you think this strange chimera could be?


The bizarre creature is the aptly-named hummingbird moth (Hemaris diffinis), a member of the genus Hemaris. This special group of insects within the Sphinx moth family commonly mimics hummingbirds but are often mistaken for bees as well. This adaptation serves to deter insectivorous birds from trying to munch on the flying critters. Even if a predator failed to confuse a moth for a bird, it’s black and yellow body serves as further protection. The moth, by copying the distinctive color patterning of bees, fools its enemies by into fearing a sting that will never come.



A whole host of animals mimic the hard-working bee, either armed with a stinger (like wasps) or not (some beetles!).


Mud dauber, a type of wasp. Notice the lack of a furry body.
(photo: Wikimedia commons, BY-SA-3.0)


Honey bee, with furry body and short antennae. (photo: Wikimedia commons, BY-SA-3.0)


Wasp beetle, with long antennae. (photo: S. Rae, BY-SA-2.0)


Interested in learning more about bee mimics? Visit beespotter.org to read more!

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