A mantis fly
a mantis fly! The Latin name of the family is Mantispidae.
It took me a couple of looks to figure out what this creature is. It looks like a mantis, but not quite right. Its head, its antennae, the upright single set of wings and the way the front arms fold don’t make sense for a mantis. The colors make it look like a wasp, but that is just mimicry. By looking like a wasp it discourages predators to attack it they have learned that wasps sting.
A mantisfly or mantidfly is related to lacewings. Its only very distantly related to a praying mantis. The shape of the front legs has developed separately in mantids and mantisflies, making it a nice case of convergent evolution. Both groups of species have developed the raptorial front legs as a way to catch prey. Apparently this “design” is the most functional for insects that catch prey using their vision and their front legs.
Check out the video to know what I’m talking about.
Ever heard of the Wandering Violin mantis? It’s a mantis species that has a bizarre body. It has a normal head and abdomen, but in between there is a huge stretch of body that only serves as camouflage. It breaks up the normal body shape of an insect, making it harder for predators to recognize this mantis as a tasty bite. The rest of the body is also very well camouflaged.
Check out more about the Wandering Violin Mantis on it’s own page.
Subadult male Wandering Violin Mantis
Wandering Violin subadult Male
Many people ask me: “Does a praying mantis bite?” or “Can a praying mantis bite me?”. Well, it can, but it likely won’t happen.
A praying mantis will bit only when:
- It’s big enough to bite you, a mantis that is shorter than 2 inches won’t be able to bite you.
- It thinks your finger is a prey
A praying mantis does not bite to defend itself against people. If it shows that it feels threatened by assuming a defense posture (called deimatic display behavior) you should leave it alone to calm down.
It once happened to me that my mantis bit me. I had been away for the weekend and came back home to my mantises. It had been a bit warm that weekend and the mantises were thirsty. I took out one of the mantis older nymphs and let is walk on my finger. Then it felt the moisture on my skin, it bent down to drink. Mantises do this all the time when they are thirsty and they will not bite. But this time for some reason it saw my finger as a prey item and quickly used its front arms to catch my finger. The spikes on the arms hurt a bit, but immediately it also started to bring its head to my finger to take a bite! Ai, that hurts! I waved my hand up and down until the mantis lost grip and landed somewhere on the floor.
I think only the large mantis species that tackle big prey could possibly bite, for example the Giant Asian Mantis, African Mantis or European Mantis. The species that are smaller or eat mostly flies are not willing to attack a large prey like a human finger.
Do you want to read more about keeping a mantis as a pet? Read Caring for a Mantis. Do you want to know all the different species of mantis? Use the menu on your right!
African Mantis adult female – brown variant
How about a stick insect species in which the female has horns? Meet the Annam Stick Insect. Adult males are just boring with a smooth skin and thin body. But the females, no! They look like they are made of wood and have two funny horns at the top of their head.
You can read all about this species and how to keep it as a pet on the Annam Stick Insect page.
Adult female Annam Stick Insect
I used to keep Popa spurca mantises as pets, but I never made pictures to show here. Now Derrick Bell send me a message asking which species of mantis he has at home. And it turns out to be Popa spurca, definately. And he is so kind to allow me to publish his pictures here.
Popa spurca adult male
Popa spurca adult male
Popa spurca adult female
Popa spurca nymph
Popa spurca nymph – sorry for the out-of-focus but at least you can see its bizarre body shape
I got another question in my e-mail box to identify an insect. This time from Martina Stoecker located in Western Cape, South Africa. This is it:
Case moth larva from South Africa – Picture by Martina Stoecker
After some research it turns out to be a Case Moth larva. And these bugs turn out to be pretty interesting! They live inside a case made of sand, plant material and debris that they gather themselves. They use silk and the materials to make a bag where they hide in. The bag or case protects them and helps them to hide from predators. Because case moth larvae have to make use of the materials they find to make their casing, they can look very differently. The one on the picture has gathered quite a few small sticks to make a casing with horizontal lines. Very fashionable! Especially with the sandy collar area.
Other common names for case moths are bagworms. They belong to the family Psychidae. There are around 1400 species of bagworms and they occur all over the world. Only the larvae wear the distinctive bag, after pupation inside the bag a small moth emerges. The colors, size and host plant differs greatly between the species.
The picture is made with: Pentax K200D, macro lens Cosina 100mm, F13, 1/25sec., ISO500 by Martina Stoecker.
A while ago I had this website translated to Spanish! I think many people would like to get the information on this website also in another language than English. After much consideration I choose the Spanish language, as I want to learn this language at some point and because many people all over the world speak Spanish.
So, if you are looking for insect information in Spanish, check out: www.cuidandobichos.com
Angie send me the following message and question:
Thank you for this site it’s so informative. I myself am not much of an insect fan, but we had this mantis in our garden for several months this summer. It’s been fun observing him, then we had a sudden temperature drop this week and decided to bring him in so he wouldn’t die (it snowed). We have a nice enclosure for him, he’s been eating well and I do mist the plants in the enclosure for him to drink from. I’m just curious about the color of his eyes. When he was outside they were green, now they seem to have gotten darker. I work so I only see him in the early mornings and late evenings when I get home. In the garden we only observed him in sunlight as he would hide out of sight at sunset. Is this color change normal due to lower light, or is this a sign that something is wrong?
It’s a close observation and I’m glad to say it’s completely normal. The eyes of a mantis will differ in color depending on the light conditions. Pigments in the eyes of a mantis will gather when there is low light or darkness. You can see this around half an hour after the mantis is placed in the dark. In the light the pigments will disappear again leaving the eye light-colored.
In different mantis species the color of the eye changes. In the Orchid Mantis Hymenopus coronatus the eyes can be white or light-pink in bright light conditions and deep purple in darkness. It’s a stunning difference! Mantises with green eyes will change the color between light green and dark green, almost black. Mantises with brown eyes like the Dead Leaf Mantis Deroplatys desiccata will develop completely black eyes in darkness.
The eye color probably changes to facilitate better vision for the mantis. It is unclear how the pigmentation helps the mantis in its ability to see better.
There is one condition, an illness, in which mantises get dark eyes. This is not caused by pigmentation and it does not depend on light conditions. It’s a permanent black or dark spot in the middle of the eye and it does not move position when you look at it from different angles. It is damage to the surface of the eye caused by scratching the eyes of the mantis against the glass or plastic of its container. Sometimes a mantis can get obsessive trying to approach or catch a prey that is on the other side of the glass container. While trying to approach the prey the mantis brushes its eyes back and forth against the glass, damaging the eyes. When the wound gets infected it turns black. This problem is pretty severe because the eyes will not recover and vision is lost in the area where the wound is. If you see your mantis brushing it’s head and eyes against the container, make sure to remove the object it is after or place the mantis in a net cage. This will prevent any other damage to your beautiful pet mantis.
The following mantis has been photographed in Italy, Europe. The sender is wondering which species it is. Let me tell you it’s really hard to determine a species through a photograph. So which this animal I can only be relatively sure its a Empusa sp. What I do know for sure is that its an adult male. Adult because of the wings and body type and male because of the large and beautiful “feathered” antennae. What a beautiful mantis with the green wings and brown speckled body. Truly a expertly camouflaged animal.
Empusa sp. male from Italy
Empusa sp. male from Italy