When the genearal publc thinks of insects, some of the first creatures that come to mind are ants, beetles, cockroaches, and other ground dwellers. The word “beauty” rarely comes to mind. However, not every insect is a dark scurrying form that gives the public chills at the very thought of them. In Malaysia, there lives an insect that may be the most beautiful of all insects. It’s a praying mantis called the orchid mantis, Hymenopus coronatus.
The orchid mantis is not an orchid dwelling insect; rather, it gets its name from the lobes on its legs that look like an orchid or flower. They are found on white or pink flowers amongst bushes and small trees. They can be white, pink, or a mixture of both and are able to change according to their environment. Their beautiful coloration is excellent camouflage. Like many species of mantis, the females are larger than the males, even though the males initially grow more rapidly. Like other mantis species, the male orchid mantis is in danger of being eaten by the female after mating.When the females are not eating the males, the orchid mantis diet consists of other crawling and flying insects. Their camouflage adapts them to perch on the flowers unnoticed while they stalk and ultimately eat their prey. Important staples of their diet are pollenating insects that get close to them on the flowers but fail to notice the orchid mantis’ presence. Orchid mantis immatures have small black bodies with red legs and resemble ants. It’s not until after their first molt that the immatures begin to produce white and pink colors. The diets of the nymphs consist of smaller insects while they grow in size.
While it seems like the most beautiful and exotic of insects are in far-away lands, we can rest assured that they do exist. The orchid mantis can be reared by zoos and hobbyists (with appropriate permits) and are becoming more common in insect zoos. The orchid mantis reminds us that beauty can hide in the most unsuspecting of places.