Safe ... or Sorry? Look-alikes in Nature

Here’s how to distinguish some of nature’s harmless and potentially harmful look-alikes.



honeybee
One way to distinguish honeybees from look-alikes is to look at their antennae, which, for honeybees, are longer than their heads.  
DWIGHT KUHN
flower fly
The flower fly can often be mistaken for a bee or wasp.  
DWIGHT KUHN
northern water snake
Northern water snake
RICHARD DAY/DAYBREAK IMAGERY
cottonmouth snake
Cottonmouths vary in color from solid brown, black or olive, to patterns of these colors. They inhabit the South and lower Midwest.
MASLOWSKI PRODUCTIONS
rattlesnake
Pit vipers (which includes the rattlesnake, shown here, and the copperhead and cottonmouth) are so named for their distinguishing facial pits. Located between their eyes and nostrils, these pits sense heat and help the snakes detect prey.
DWIGHT KUHN
poison ivy and virginia creeper
Poison ivy (left) and Virginia creeper (right) are commonly confused for one another.
DAVID CAVAGNARO
scarlet kingsnake
The nonvenomous scarlet kingsnake lives in part of the venomous coral snake's range, from North Carolina to east Texas.
SHELDON/ANIMALS ANIMALS
grizzly bear
The grizzly bear has a more pronounced shoulder hump than the black bear.  
BILL LEA
Black bear
One distinguishing feature of the black bear is how its body tends to tilt upward, whereas the grizzly bear tends to slope downward.
BILL LEA
eastern coral snake
The small and relatively mild-mannered eastern coral snake packs a potent bite, one that's potentially deadly to humans. It can be distinguished from nonvenomous look-alikes through which colors touch each other: "red touch yellow, kills a fellow."
KENT/ANIMALS ANIMALS
grizzly bear face
Note the short ears of the grizzly bear, compared to the comparatively larger ears of the black bear.  
BILL LEA
black bear face
The black bear has a more oval face than the rounded face of the grizzly bear.  
BILL LEA











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