Flower mantises are those species of praying mantises that mimic flowers. Their coloration is an example of aggressive mimicry, a form of camouflage in which a predator's colours and patterns lure prey. The flower mantises are not a natural group with a single ancestor (a clade), but most of the species are in the family Hymenopodidae. Their behaviours vary, but typically involve climbing a plant, and then staying still until a prey insect comes within range (ambush predation). Many species of flower mantises are popular as pets.
The orchid mantis, Hymenopus coronatus, of Southeast Asia mimics an orchid flower. It remains motionless on the plant until prey arrives; the same camouflage also protects it from predators. In his 1940 book Adaptive Coloration in Animals, Hugh Cott quotes an account by Nelson Annandale, saying that the mantis hunts on the flowers of the "Straits Rhododendron", Melastoma polyanthum. The nymph has what Cott calls "special alluring coloration" (aggressive mimicry), where the animal itself is the "decoy". The insect is pink and white, with flattened limbs with "that semiopalescent, semicrystalline appearance that is caused in flower petals by a purely structural arrangement of liquid globules or empty cells". The mantis climbs up the twigs of the plant and stands imitating a flower and waits for its prey patiently. It then sways from side to side, and soon various small flies land on and around it, attracted by the small black spot on the end of its abdomen, which resembles a fly. When a larger dipteran fly, as big as a house fly, landed nearby, the mantis at once seized and ate it. More recently (2015), the orchid mantis's coloration has been shown to be an effective mimic of tropical flowers, and it has been demonstrated to attract pollinators (as if it were a flower) and then to catch them.
The flower mantises include these species, many of which are popularly kept as pets:
|Acromantis formosana||Taiwan flower mantis||Taiwan||Nymphs are dark brown, flanged and spined, highly cryptic on dead leaves. Adults have green wings.|
|Blepharopsis mendica||Small devil's flower mantis
Devil's flower mantis
Egyptian flower mantis
|North Africa, Canary Islands||Deimatic display with head and thorax rotated to one side.|
|Chloroharpax modesta||Nigerian flower mantis||West Africa||Adult female has ocellated eyespots on wings. Aggressively hunts prey larger than itself.|
|Creobroter gemmatus and other species in genus
|Flower mantises||South and Southeast Asia||Fly strongly on long wings. Eyespots on forewings, varying colours. Deimatic display of bright hindwings is flashed to startle predators.|
|Gongylus gongylodes||Wandering violin mantis
Indian rose mantis
|South Asia||Up to 11 cm; males can fly.|
|Harpagomantis tricolor||African false flower mantis||Southern Africa||A colourful ambush hunter that waits motionless on flowering plants. Length about 3 cm.|
|Hymenopus coronatus||Orchid mantis
Walking flower mantis
|Southeast Asia||Hunts flies on "Straits Rhododendron", Melastoma polyanthum.|
|Idolomantis diabolica||[Giant] devil's flower mantis||Central and East Africa||Large insect, females as much as 13 cm. Brightly coloured deimatic display in red, white, blue, purple and black.|
|Parymenopus davisoni||Yellow flower mantis,
|Southeast Asia||A slender yellow mantis, the female with three dark spots on the wings|
|Pseudoharpax virescens||Gambian spotted-eye flower mantis||East, Central, and West Africa||Adult female has eye spots on her abdomen.|
|Pseudocreobotra wahlbergii||Spiny flower mantis
|South and East Africa||Effective aggressive mimic of flowers, can handle prey much larger than itself, deimatic display with spread wings to show off "number 9" eyespots, variable coloration|
|Pseudocreobotra ocellata||Spiny flower mantis
Spiny flower praying mantis
African ocellated mantis
|West, Central and Southern Africa||Like P. wahlbergii.|
|Theopropus elegans||Banded flower mantis
Asian boxer mantis
|Southeast Asia||White stripe on forewings. Colours can vary.|
- Levine, Timothy R. (2014). Encyclopedia of Deception. SAGE Publications. p. 675. ISBN 978-1-4833-8898-4.
In aggressive mimicry, the predator is "a wolf in sheep's clothing". Mimicry is used to appear harmless or even attractive to lure its prey.
-  Archived 2013-03-10 at the Wayback Machine www.environmentalgraffiti.com: 15 Incredible Flower Praying Mantis Pictures
- Wickler, 1968.
- Gullan and Cranston, 2010. p 370.
- Cott, 1940. pp392-393.
- Annandale, Nelson (1900). "Notes on the Habits and natural Surroundings of Insects made during the 'Skeat Expedition' to the Malay Peninsula, 1899–1900". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London: 837–868.
- Choi, Charles Q. (30 November 2013). "Found! First Known Predator To Lure Prey By Mimicking Flowers". LiveScience. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
the color of the orchid mantis was indistinguishable from 13 species of wild flowers in the areas the predator lived. The orchid mantis is unique in that the mantis itself is the attractive stimulus.
- USA Mantis: Acromantis formosana
- Keeping Insects: Blepharopsis mendica
- Insectstore, mantis caresheets: Blepharopsis mendica
- Dannesdjur: image gallery: Blepharopsis mendica Archived 2012-06-28 at the Wayback Machine
- USA Mantis: photos of Chloroharpax modesta
- Cott, 1940. p336.
- Svenson, G.J.; Hardy, N.B.; Cahill Wightman, H.M.; Wieland, F. (October 2015). "Of flowers and twigs: phylogenetic revision of the plant-mimicking praying mantises (Mantodea: Empusidae and Hymenopodidae) with a new suprageneric classification". Systematic Entomology. 40 (4): 789–834. doi:10.1111/syen.12134. Retrieved 3 May 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Dorai, Francis (ed.) (2011). Singapore at Random. Editions Didier Millet. p. 18.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- Insect Store: Idolomantis diabolica
- Reptileforums: Idolomantis diabolica
- Reocities.com: Parhymenopus davisoni
- Keeping Insects: Pseudoharpax virescens
- MantisKingdom: Caresheet of Pseudocreobotra wahlbergii
- Exotic Pets: Spiny Flower Mantis
- PetBugs.com: Caresheet on P. ocellata
- USA Mantis logs: Theopropus elegans