Most people are familiar with mimicry in the animal kingdom — the Viceroy, Limentis archippus, for example, copies the bad-tasting Monarch, Danaus plexippus — and various species of “Steady John” flies look like bees to discourage predators. But there are also curious species of moths that mimic wasps. This Paranthrene robiniae emerged from a willow tree stump in Lakeside Park in Oakland this spring. The larva lives in dead or dying willows.

This remarkable moth mimics the Golden Paper-nest Wasp, Polistes fuscatus, and at first glance looks so much like it that even I hesitated to touch it. That moment of hesitation by predators gives this moth an edge that helps it survive.

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