Monday, January 9, 2012

Creature Feature: Orchid Mantis.

Why, in all of the entries here, have mantids gone unnoticed? There is certainly something bizarre about a bug with 'arms' as its first two legs. Mantis heads make good bases for alien heads. Mantids in general should have been covered here a while back, but for now, we are only looking at the weirdest of the weird. Even mantises have their freak shows.

 That insectoid flower (or floral insect) is an orchid mantis (Hymenopus coronatus). Like all mantids, it is predatory. Don't let that pink fool you; the orchid mantis will eat any small bugs within its reach. We wish Avatar had one of these, but they are only native to the rainforests of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Sumatra.

The orchid mantis has some of the best camouflage in the insect world. Its lower legs look almost exactly like flower petals. Its abdomen and eyes have stripes like flowers, too. One could probably stick this mantis into a bouquet of flowers and not notice until the bug flew off. Ladies, hold onto your monocles - that flower's alive!

Image by Luc Viatour at Go visit him now!

The mantids are not born with this stunning coloration. They start as orange, antlike nymphs. With each shed, they become steadily more colorful. The mantis takes on the coloration of whatever flower becomes its home - usually a papaya or orchid blossom. This leads to a great variety of patterns in mature specimens. There are some theories that climate, rather than just surrounding flora, may have an impact on the insect's final colors. Bear this in mind if you plan on taking one home and breeding it.

As one might imagine, orchid mantises are uncommon in the exotic pet trade. In captivity, they live almost exclusively on fruit flies. They are docile and can easily be handled. Provide sufficient decor for the mantis to molt and otherwise feel comfortable. Although not for beginners, if you are looking for an exotic insect, this mantis might be up your alley.

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