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A Deceptive Flower - Malaysian Orchid Mantis

Posted by Green Day In Seattle , 24 December 2012 · 2,923 views

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 mantises. Males are half the size of the female and have a different number of abdominal segments as well. Females have six while the males have eight. There is even a slight difference in the coloring of a band-like marking around the neck. This marking is green in females and a brownish purple on 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.
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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. 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.
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Not a great day for that fly right there. Having your head ripped off can't be the most pleasant thing in the world.
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 coverup to go hunting real ants. It is evident that these clever insects are masters of camouflage at every stage of life.
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A young 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.
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A male and female adult.

  • Florence and Maria Gloria like this

Maria Gloria
Dec 24 2012 07:17 AM

I always really enjoy reading these. Keep up the good work!

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Green Day In Seattle
Dec 24 2012 05:13 PM
Thank you! :hug: I will!
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