Flower Mantis Natural History

Evolution has produced some creatures with extraordinary abilities. One of those abilities commonly seen in the animal kingdom is mimicry. Insects and other animals will evolve to look like other creatures as a means of survival.

One of the most impressive examples of mimicry in the animal kingdom is the flower mantis. Flower mantises are known for mimicking the appearance of flowering plants. Read on to learn more about the natural history of this insect master of disguise.

Flower Mantis Description

Flower mantises are a group of mantids in the family Hymenopodidae that are known for their colorful appearance. Flower mantises have evolved to mimic the appearance of flowers as a means to hunt their prey. Flower mantises are located in most places in the world but are most commonly found in Asia and Southeast Asia.

Flower mantises are a diverse group of insects and different species have different morphological characteristics. Like other mantises, flower mantises have large, triangular heads, strong mandibles, and long, spiky forearms they use for grasping. While stationary, their arms fold up and clasp together, hence the common moniker “praying” mantis.

The most distinct characteristic of flower mantises is how they have evolved to mimic the appearance of flowering plants. Flower mantis species have evolved to mimic orchids, dead leaves, grass, and several other types of plants.

picture of flower mantid eating butterfly
Credit: P. Kirilov via WikiCommons CC-BY-SA 2.0

Perhaps the most famous kind of flower mantis is the orchid mantis (Hymenopus coronatus) Orchid mantises have a bright pink appearance that allows them to camouflage and ambush prey that come to feed on the orchid flower. The orchid mantis is a voracious hunter and primarily feeds on pollinator insects, including butterflies, fruit flies, crickets, and bees.

Flower Mantis Behavior

The majority of flower mantises are hunters and use their camouflage to hide and ambush prey. They will position themselves on the plant and lay in wait motionless. When insects movie on to the plant to feed, they will rapidly expand their forearms and catch their prey, pulling it towards their mouth to feed.

Some species of flower mantis can also fly. For example, the orchid mantis uses its wings to fly around and quickly position itself for hunting. The devil’s flower mantis is also capable of flight. Most flower mantises use their antennae to sense prey and detect pheromones from potential mates.

picture of praying mantis
Credit: J. Emilio via WikiCommons CC-BY-SA 2.0

Like many other species of mantises, flower mantises often engage in a form of sexual cannibalism. After copulation, females will typically eat the males to gain extra nutrients for their eggs. In general, flower mantises display exaggerated sexual dimorphism, in which females routinely grow to be twice as large as males.

Due to their colorful appearance, many flower mantises are popular pets.  Check out our Framed Mantis species

Notable Flower Mantis Species

  • Orchid Mantis (Hymenopus coronatus)
  • Devil’s Flower Mantis (Blepharopsis mendica)
  • Violin Mantis (Gongylus gongylodes)
  • Spiny Flower Mantis (Pseudocreobotra wahlbergi)
  • Tawainese Flower Mantis (Acromantis formosana)
  • Spotted-Eye Flower Mantis (Pseudoharpax virescens)

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