The orchid mantis is one of the most beautiful insects, known for mimicking colorful orchids. Unfortunately, the disguise is often used to fool their unsuspecting victims. While many insects and animals disguise themselves to deter predators, the orchid mantis uses its camouflage to attract prey.
Although scientists have suspected the predatory behavior since the 1800s, new research confirms their suspicions. Evolutionary biologists from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia and the University of Auckland traveled to Malaysia to study the beautiful but deadly bugs.
The researchers determined orchid mantis coloring is specifically similar to orchids. They also found that the mantises themselves were attractive to bees and butterflies, due to their coloring. As reported by Weather.com, the flying insects repeatedly approached the mantises without realizing they were in danger.
Study leader James O’Hanlon said the findings were significant:
“We now know that not only is it possible for mantises to lure pollinators, but we know that they are amazingly good at it… They can attract even more pollinators than some flowers.”
Even more interesting, O’Hanlon said the orchid mantis is the only known animal or insect “that resembles a flower blossom to attract prey.” Although many insects hide in or near blossoms, their prey is attracted to the flower — not the insects themselves. In the case of the mantis, the flying insects are specifically attracted to their predators’ coloring.
Researchers found that the mantises attracted their prey regardless of where they were perched. Pollinating insects were equally attracted to the mantises whether they were sitting on a blossom or on a pile of leaves.
Although the scientists are certain the mantises use their disguise to attract prey, they are unclear how helpful the camouflage is in protecting them from their own predators.
KeepingInsects.com explains that the colorful mantises have a wide variety of colors. However, pink and white are the most prevalent. The insects are capable of changing their color, but it can take up to several days depending on the climate. In addition to their coloring, the unusual mantises’ legs look similar to flower petals. The females are much larger, with more elaborate legs and brilliant coloring.
The orchid mantis is a beautiful creature. Unfortunately, they have a bad reputation as cunning and aggressive hunters.