Masquerading animals benefit from the difficulty that predators have in differentiating them from the inedible objects, such as twigs, that they resemble. The function of masquerade has been demonstrated, but how it interacts with the life history of organisms has not yet been studied. Here, we report the use of comparative analyses to test hypotheses linking masquerade to life-history parameters. We constructed a phylogenetic tree of the British species of the lepidoptera families Geometridae and Drepanidae, and compiled life history and coloration data from the literature. We found that masquerade is associated with the exploitation of a greater diversity of host plants whether measured by the number of families or genera. We found a positive relationship between body size and polyphagy among masquerading species, and no relationship among cryptic species. Among those species predominantly found on woody host plants, masquerading species are more likely to overwinter as larvae while cryptic species mostly overwinter as pupae. Polyphenism was associated with multivoltinism in masquerading species but not cryptic species. Taken together, our results show that masquerade must be viewed as a strategy distinct to crypsis and hence may provide insights into the evolution of both defensive strategies. Our study further demonstrates the utility of broad-scale between-species comparisons in studying associations between diverse life-history parameters and sensory aspects of predator-prey interactions. © 2012 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2012, 106, 90–103.