A Deceptive Flower – Malaysian Orchid Mantis

The Malaysian orchid mantis (Hymenopus coronatus) is a unique species of mantis that lives in the South Asian rainforests of Malaysia, Sumatra, and Indonesia. It is quite small, only about two and a half inches long at most for the female, and displays the greatest sexual dimorphism of all the mantids. Males are half the size of the female and there is even a slight difference in the coloring of a band-like marking around the neck. This marking is green in sub-adult females and a brownish purple on sub-adult males. Either color goes nicely with the subtle, creamy pastel shades of the mantis’ body. The species itself can come in a range of colors depending on what environment it matures in. Most often it is white or pink, but there can be purple, yellow, green and a variety of other colors.

Adult male and female.

Although the Malaysian orchid mantis is a beautiful creature, it is also a vicious predator. As the name suggests, this mantis often chooses orchid flowers as its hunting grounds. Its body is camouflaged perfectly to match the botanical backdrop on which it hides. The four walking legs are even equipped with petal mimicking projections so as to camouflage better. All the mantis needs to do is lie in wait, perfectly still, for some poor unsuspecting insect to visit the flower. Once this occurs, the mantis grabs it up in its sharp, spiny forelegs with lightning speed and proceeds to rip it apart with its powerful jaws. It uses this same weaponry to defend itself from harm when threatened and can become quite aggressive if disturbed. First it will rise up into a threat display with its arms outstretched and wings spread wide. If it still feels bothered then it will attack. Those arms can actually inflict a good amount of damage to a human hand and the mantis will not hesitate to bite any place it can reach.

Another very interesting defense is used only by orchid mantises when they are very young nymphs. The little baby mantises walk around disguised as a dangerous species of ant. They hold their abdomens curled over their bodies and move with an ant-like motion. They walk on all six legs, which are tipped in black, contrasting with their bright red bodies. This allows them to avoid predators that aren’t looking to mess around with getting stung or bitten by ants and also as a cover-up to go hunting real ants. It is evident that these clever insects are masters of camouflage at every stage of life.

Ant mimicking nymph.

Although the ant disguise is a striking technique, it doesn’t last long. A nymph loses this costume after the first molt and begins to look like a tiny adult instead. Orchid mantis females go through seven molts to reach adulthood and males go through five, maturing much quicker but living shorter lives. The average female lives about eight months while a male will only live to be five or six months old. Once a nymph becomes an adult, it develops large wings and becomes a very good flier and can travel more effectively. Orchid mantises don’t just frequent orchids. They will hang around in many other flowering plants and trees such as papayas and the wonderfully scented plumeria. So if you live in Southern Asia, definitely go check out some flowers to see if you can find one of these stunning insect beauties.


Sub-adult female by “Frupus” on Flickr (see link below).

1.”Orchid Mantis – Hymenopus Coronatus.” Keeping Insects. Keepinginsects.com, n.d. Web. 23 June 2015. <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.keepinginsects.com%2Fpraying-mantis%2Fspecies%2Forchid-mantis%2F>.

2. O’hanlon, J. C., D. Li, and Y. Norma-Rashid. “Coloration and morphology of the orchid mantis Hymenopus coronatus (Mantodea: Hymenopodidae).” Journal of Orthoptera Research 22.1 (2013): 35-44.

3. “Malaysian Orchid Mantis.” WAZA. World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, n.d. Web. 23 June 2015. <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.waza.org%2Fen%2Fzoo%2Fchoose-a-species%2Finvertebrates%2Finsects-and-millipedes%2Fhymenopus-coronatus>.

Photo Links:
1. http://lemondedesphasmes.free.fr/IMG/jpg/Hymenopuscoronatuscoupleadulte2.jpg


3. https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/c1/d7/77/c1d777466221bdcf3f8634826ec41996.jpg

4. https://flic.kr/p/jqiky2