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Orchid Mantis Ambushes Foraging Butterflies
source:     author:CHEN Gao     2020-03-12

The orchid mantis, Hymenopus coronatus, which inhabits Southeast Asia, possesses a unique flower-like characteristics, which allows the predator to ambush floral visitors as prey. After more than a century of conjecture, O'Hanlon et al. (2014) provided the first experimental evidence of pollinator deception by the orchid mantis. Hymenopteran pollinators cannot distinguish the color of the orchid mantis from that of some sympatric flowers. Amazingly, H. coronatus emits 3-hydroxyoctanoic acid and 10-hydroxy-(E)-2-decenoic acid mimicking intraspecific communication signals of honeybees (Mizuno et al., 2014).


However, orchid mantis has been observed ambushing on insects including butterflies, crickets, bees, flies and grasshoppers. Therefore, we suggest that the predatory strategy of orchid mantis can be interpreted as a form of “generalized food deception”. Foraging Pieris rapae butterflies were observed approaching on H. coronatus from a short distance (a). The orchid mantis often pounced, caught, ate up the abdomen of the victim (b) and discarded the wings of the butterfly (c) (Movie S1).


To date, following questions are still open and waiting to be clarified: the role of the mantis’ camouflage as a protection shield against predators; the predatory behavior of this mantis species at different life stages; the chemical cues from orchid mantis related to butterflies; the threatened status of the orchid mantis in their natural habitats because of its rarity; the fitness costs for preys ambushed by orchid mantis. To study these points would lead to a much better understanding of this aggressive mimicry.


O’Hanlon et al., 2014. Pollinator deception in the orchid mantis. Am. Nat. https://doi.org/10.1086/673858.


Mizuno et al., 2014. “Double-trick” visual and chemical mimicry by the juvenile orchid mantis Hymenopus coronatus used in predation of the oriental honeybee Apis cerana. Zool. Sci. https://doi.org/10.2108/zs140126.



Local people observed an orchid mantis in its natural habitat & A predatory orchid mantis

The same orchid mantis caught different flies

Another orchid mantis caught a fly (left) and a megachilid (right)

An orchid mantis caught a pompilid (left) and a fly (right; a kleptoparasitic fly is stealing the fly victim from the orchid mantis)



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