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6 Insects With Amazing Faces (With Photos)

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Insects With Amazing Faces

In reality, insects do not have "faces" in the human sense. Instead of having two eyes, a nose and a mouth, insects have as many as eight eyes, no nose, and a mouth comprised of several moving parts (think of the monster in Predator).

So when we talk about insect faces, we're really talking about the way humans perceive the insect's markings or designs. Since insect designs have not really changed for up to millions of years, it's safe to say that insect faces are mostly a matter of coincidence!

That said, here are some insects with truly striking, human-like markings that resemble a face.

Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis

1. Praying Mantis

Mantids are insects with a very distinct "look," which can be described as nothing short of alien.

The wide-set eyes and curious demeanor make them appear to be coldly intelligent, even though there is no evidence that this group of insects is any more intelligent or aware than any other—in other words, despite their look, praying mantises are no different from caterpillars, moths, bees, or beetles. It's simply the way we humans respond to the particular "look" of the mantis face.

The species pictured is Tenodera sinensis. More than most species, T. sinensis has the look of a curious, intelligent alien.

Catacanthus incarnatus

Catacanthus incarnatus

2. Catacanthus incarnatus, the "Face Bug"

It's almost hard to remember that the face markings on this insect are nothing more than markings—the "eyes" can't see, and the "mouth" can't eat. And for sure the "hair" cannot be combed!

In the above photo, the insect's actual head (and whatever actual face it may have) is located at the very bottom of the photo. The bug, a member of the group of "true bugs" that includes many other species, is pointed head down, which means that the face markings on the insect's back are only striking when viewed upside-down.

Clearly, the resemblance to a human face is completely coincidental, given that the markings have been there for millions of years, a long time before modern human faces made their appearance on the planet.

Harvester Butterfly Pupa

Harvester Butterfly Pupa

3. Harvester Butterfly Pupa

The harvester is a small, orange-and-brown butterfly that lives along forest edges in some parts of North America. It would be a fairly unremarkable member of the North American butterfly fauna if it were not for one thing: the caterpillar is carnivorous. It spends its days feeding on aphids instead of leaves, making it one of only a few butterfly caterpillars that eat meat.

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There is one other feature that sets the harvester apart: the pupa looks almost exactly like a face. Whether this is accidental is hard to know. It's possible that a predator, coming across a harvester butterfly pupa, may decide that its potential meal looks a bit too much like an animal to be attempted.

In any case, the harvester pupa is one insect face that most people will never see, let alone notice!

White Ghost Spider

White Ghost Spider

4. White Ghost Spider

Like many spiders, this arachnid has finely tuned markings on its dorsal surface, or back. What you are seeing is not the spider's head or "face," but markings on the abdomen that clearly resemble a human face.

Like the harvester pupa (above), the markings that create the face effect may or may not be a result of natural selection that favors "face" markings. If a predator sees the markings as threatening in some way, then natural selection will favor that species and those markings, and the animal's offspring may also have the favored markings.

5. Death's Head Sphinx Moth

Unlike the previous two species, the death's head sphinx possesses one of the more well-known insect faces. This is a very large moth, common throughout much of Europe and Asia, and also prominently featured in the book and movie, Silence of the Lambs. In that film, one of the bad guys raises moths in his basement—weird, maybe, but there are plenty of non-serial-killer citizen scientists who share his hobby—and there are many death's head moths fluttering around his dark domain.

Of course, there's nothing inherently sinister about the death's head moth. There are thousands of moths just like it that don't quite have the chance markings that humans interpret as a skull, and most people never notice them. It's the random arrangement of scales that give this moth the "face" that gives people the creeps.

Alligator bug, Fulgora lanternaria

Alligator bug, Fulgora lanternaria

6. The Alligator Bug

Not a human face, maybe, but still one of the most remarkable fake faces in the entire animal kingdom. The alligator bug actually belongs to the family Fulgoridae, and has many of the same habits as a cicada. In one of the most arresting examples of mimicry, however, the alligator bug (Fulgora laternaria) sports an entire, three-dimensional alligator head, right down to the eyes and a huge grinning mouth. The really amazing thing is that this "head" is just a built-out extension of the insect's front section—the fake head has no real eyes, moth, or any other working parts. The alligator bug's real head is small and unnoticeable, with tiny eyes and mouth parts.

If by any chance the big lizard head fails to scare away predators by mimicking a dangerous animal, the alligator bug has another protective trick up its sleeve—or rather, under its wing covers. When disturbed, Fulgora laternaria pops open its big, broad wings and displays enormous, staring eyespots. This startling display is a common tactic among insects like moths and mantids, and any bird or predator still thinking about munching on the little bug will get the scare of its life.

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The following sources were used for this guide:

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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