Mantises disguise themselves as orchids and are excellent hunters
The orchid mantis is a strange insect that can disguise itself as a flower to attract and attack prey.
This is a very specially adapted species, also known as Hymenopus coronatus or flower mantis, living in tropical forests in Southeast Asia from Indonesia, Philippines to India and growing very diversely in peninsular Malaysia.
In a study on mimicry, experts suggested that a flower mantis attracts more nectar feeders than real orchids. So how does this orchid mantis have such great camouflage ability?
First, each of its four legs has the same petal color and rounded shape. Like other members of the mantis family, the orchid mantis’s front legs are lined with “serrations” that allow it to grip its prey without even realizing it.
The prey of this species is mainly butterflies and moths. They disguise themselves perfectly like a real flower, attracting the attention of not only butterflies but also flies and honey bees that are easily confused when looking for nectar.
The orchid mantis is also notable for its sexual dimorphism. Females are much larger, more colorful and less active. Males are smaller, drab, and more mobile to facilitate reproduction.
In addition to their floral appearance, young female mantises emit chemicals that are part of pheromone communication to the Oriental honey bee (Apis cerana), according to the journal Zoological Science.
Also according to this study, scientists “successfully detected a pheromone (a type of scent) emitted in the air at the time when baby mantises are trying to catch their prey.”
Research in the journal Current Zoology found that the appearance of this “gecko” praying mantis bears no resemblance to any specific orchid species in the Malaysian rainforest, its birthplace. At the same time, it does not give a general impression of a particular flower, but only “its color and shape change depending on which area has many colorful flowers and many different types of flowers”.
A study in the journal Behavioral Ecology found that although a solitary mantis can hunt successfully, catching the most trophies requires a “magnet effect.” That is, in areas where a variety of flower types grow, it will provide “optimal feeding strategies for orchid mantises by mimicking colors”. This will increase the attraction of prey with its attractiveness. The sophisticated camouflage of this beetle is difficult to detect.
In fact, there are still questions that arise, why are these insects more attracted to orchid mantises instead of other real and safe flowers nearby?
The answer seems to be the unusual appearance and always more colorful than the real flowers of these mantises.
Discover magazine noted that for potential prey, they will be attracted to the color of the flower rather than its shape. Therefore, female mantises seem to be perfectly adapted to be more colorful than the flowers of the same name, which is why they get more attention.