Clownbug CloseUp

Clownbug Closeup, rickzimmerman 2010
Clownbug Closeup, rickzimmerman 2010

In this female Clownbug closeup, we can clearly see the body features that lend this creature such a convincing disguise. Each of the long paired antennae rise sinuously from the top of the head, then curl into a tightly coiled fiddlehead-fern sort of a compact spiral, giving the Clownbug a resulting google-eyed look. (The googliness of these ‘eyes’ is enhanced as the antennae intermittently shift and turn as the bug moves and feeds.)

A clowny schnozz is simulated by the sinuosity of the bases of the antennae, as well as by the breadth of the bug’s head. Completing an apparent clown-face, by providing a silly toothy grin, is the segmented and curled length of the insect’s abdomen.

This particular Clownbug is a female, for the abdomen of the female always curls upward toward the rear in a seeming smile. In contrast, the abdomen of the male Clownbug always curls downward toward the rear, giving the male Clownbug a distinctly clowny frown instead. (Some entomologists speculate that this sexual dimorphism results from the fact that the female Clownbug spends much of each day feeding, sunning, and resting, while the male Clownbug must build and tend the nest, forage for food to feed the young, defend against predators, stockpile winter reserves, mate on demand, and otherwise service the female’s every need. Of course, most of those entomologists are male.)

Encountering a male and a female Clownbug together, one is struck by their uncanny resemblance to Ancient Greek comedy and tragedy masks.    

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