A praying mantis that disguises itself as an orchid to catch prey has been shown to be more attractive to pollinators than real flowers, a new study shows. The findings are published in The American Naturalist journal and confirm a long-held theory about the insect that dates back to the 19th century.
In 1879, Australian journalist James Hingsley returned from travels in Indonesia with tales of a carnivorous red orchid that engulfed butterflies in its petals and devoured them alive, says study lead author Dr James O’Hanlon, of the School of Biological Sciences at Sydney’s Macquarie University. However the ‘red orchid’ of Hingsley’s tale was not a flower but a praying mantis, Hymenopus coronatus, “which has become renowned for its elusiveness and remarkable resemblance to a flower blossom,” he says.
O’Hanlon says the belief the orchid mantis mimics a flower to attract insect pollinators as prey is assumed to be an established fact — yet it has never been experimentally investigated. Via Orchid mantis’ disguise lures prey