The Orchid Mantis is beautiful, but it isn’t vain — this type of praying mantis uses its shape and bright, flowery colors to attract food and fool potential predators.
While it doesn’t actually live on orchids, the orchid mantis (scientific name Hymenopus coronatus), looks remarkably like a flower, with body parts that resemble petals. It lives in bushes and small trees that grow white and pink flowers.
Though generally white, the insect can turn itself shades of pink and purple within a few days to resemble the orchids found in its humid habitat in Malaysia. It adapts to different conditions by detecting humidity and light and then changing colors to blend in.
Unsuspecting insects that mistake the mantis for a flower may land nearby or even on top of it, allowing the pretty predator to snatch them up for a quick meal. Flying insects such as butterflies and moths are the mantis’s main source of food, but it will also eat jungle fruits. The orchid mantis can also fly.
A female orchid mantis may grow up to about two and a half inches long, but the male grows only to about an inch. Because he’s smaller, he matures much more quickly than the female, and while she lives to about eight months, he lives just five or six months.
The male is also more jittery than the female, who needs to remain very still to attract her prey. One reason he might be nervous is that when it’s time to mate, a hungry female may eat him! Because of this, his best bet is to approach her when she’s already busy eating something else.
After mating, the female lays a cluster of eggs in a protein-rich foamy pouch called an ootheca. In about six weeks, up to 100 baby mantises — called nymphs — will hatch, ready to become beautiful imitation flowers.