Flower Mantis

Flower Mantis
FLOWER MANTIS (Pseudocreabotra wahlbergii)
Pronounced: (Soo-do-cre-o-baw-tra wal-ber-gee) Order: Mantodae
Kingdom: Animalia Family: Hymenopodidae
Phylum: Arthropoda Genus: Pseudocreabotra
Class: Insecta Species: wahlbergii


This beautiful bug is also called the Spiny Flower Mantis, Eye Flower Mantis and African Target Mantis for its spiny arms and eyes or target-like symbols on its wings. This species lives in Africa, but there are over 2000 species of mantids (as they are collectively called) around the world, probably evolving about 87 million years ago. They differ in colors and sizes, but they all have a triangular-shaped head, hold their arms in the “praying” posture that gave them the name “praying mantis”, and they are all carnivores.
They “sit and wait”, motionless, on a plant for an insect or spider to wander by, then ambush attack to capture it, holding it tightly in its arms (in the Flower Mantis’ case, with the help of sharp spines). Large compound eyes help it spot prey (and predators) from far away and sensitive antennae pick up interesting scents.

Mantids are also renowned in the animal world for the female’s habit of biting off the males head after mating. Although this probably doesn’t happen that often in the wild, it does make for a sensational attribute. After mating, the female produces about 400 eggs in an egg mass (eggs in a sticky gel called an ootheca) that sticks to the underside of a leaf until the eggs hatch. Unlike some other insects, female mantids may protect their eggs by staying nearby to discourage predators and parasites from attacking the ootheca. It takes up to 6 months for mantis eggs to hatch. The hatchlings are called nymphs and will molt, or grow out of their exoskeletons, several times before becoming fully grown.

Frightening attitudes and flower simulation are two strategies employed by the flower mantis to avoid predation. Its most common predators are lizards, snakes, frogs, bats, monkeys, spiders and birds. When attacked, it will rear up on its hind legs to use its strong, spiny front legs. It will also try to intimidate predators by flashing its colorful wings. At only 3 – 5 cm, Flower Mantises are small, but the eye shapes may help by simulating the appearance of a larger animal with big eyes – scaring the predator away. They have even been known to fan their wings, open their mouths and hiss at predators.

The nymphs of this species can change color to match their surroundings. Usually found on large clusters of flowers, they can camouflage themselves until they are barely noticeable. They also defend their territory against other Flower Mantises who may want to steal their food sources. When an intruder comes into their space, they display their colourful wings or freeze in a scary-looking position to intimidate the other mantis, causing them to move on to another flower.


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