Orchid Mantis: Imitation and Disguise

Orchid Mantis

Hymenopus coronatus and Phalaenopsis

Those who are interested in detailed discussions on the coevolution of insects and plants may consult the following posts:

Orchid Mantis
Whilst some orchids can imitate the shapes, colours, textures and odours of insects, some insects too are no slouch in the art of imitation.
Orchid Mantis – (Hymenopus coronatus)
The Malaysian Orchid Mantis or Hymenopus coronatus, lives on top of the Orchid Blossoms in the rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia. Their camouflage is so perectly adapted to their surroundings that it is almost impossible to say were the plant ends and the insect starts. The Orchid Mantis is a relatively normal sized species of mantis. The females can get over 5-8 cm in length. The males can get over 3-4 cm in length and are adult much quicker.

Fascinating nature clip from documentary of NAT Series, Wildlife on NatureChannel is available at http://www.youtube.com/user/thenatworld.
Visit http://www.youtube.com/thetreasurestarter for all the latest nature news and wildlife videos.

According to Wikipedia:

Hymenopus coronatus, also called H. bicornis, is a mantis from the rain forests of southeast Asia. It is known by various common names including walking flower mantis and (pink) orchid mantis. It is one of several species known as flower mantises from their resemblance and behaviour.


This species is characterized by brilliant coloring and a structure finely adapted for camouflage, mimicking parts of the orchid flower. The four walking legs resemble flower petals, the toothed front pair being used as in other mantises for grasping prey.

H. coronatus shows some of the most pronounced sexual dimorphism of any species of mantis; males can be less than half the size of females.

First stage nymphs mimic bugs of the family Reduviidae, which have a powerful bite and are foul tasting.

The mantis can change its colour between pink and brown, according to the colour of the background. According to certain Australian researchers, say it attracts more insects than the real thing.


Hymenopus coronatus is found in the rain forests of Southeast Asia, including Malaysia and Indonesia.
Aggressive, Imperfect Mimicry with Supernormal Stimulus

James Gilbert, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Hull, UK, writes in his article dated 27 January 2015 and entitled “Secrets of the orchid mantis revealed – it doesn’t mimic an orchid after all” that contrary to crab spiders, which rely on cryptic mimicry to camouflage or hide themselves on certain flowers, orchid mantises rely on aggressive mimicry to lure insects with showy adornment. In other words, orchid mantises are not so much relying on their camouflaging or replicating themselves as flowers (of Phalaenopsis or otherwise) as their looking like some “generalized” nectar-containing flowers and providing a supernormal stimulus by matching or intensifying the colour and pattern (more so than shape) that are highly attractive to pollinators of those flowers. As a result of such “sensory exploitation”, many insects are more attracted to orchid mantises than they are to those flowers. Even though the mimicry is “generalized” and thus imperfect, resembling flowers in such a manner still requires that orchid mantises become attractive and conspicuous to their preys. Being such predators, orchid mantises are as (or more) likely to be found among leaves as (or than) they are among flowers.

Those who are interested in detailed discussions on the coevolution of insects and plants may consult the following posts:

Mimicking Mantis Outperforms Orchids

According to Australian Geographic reporting on some recent scientific research conducted in Australia to investigate whether the mimicry of the praying mantis Hymenopus coronatus has evolved as a way to increase the success of predation or the efficacy of camouflage:

In the plant world, orchids use scent and bright colours to attract insects in a bid to spread their pollen and reproduce. It has long been assumed that the orchid mantis mimics flowers in order to lure these same insects.

Australian researchers investigating this theory were stunned to discover that the species is around 30% more effective at attracting pollinators than the real thing.

“We measured the hourly rate at which the pollinators flew up to the mantis and compared that to real flowers,” says Dr James O’Hanlon, an ecologist at Macquarie University in Sydney and the lead researcher. “I thought they’d be comparable, but the orchid mantis went way over.”

Graham Milledge, a mantis taxonomy expert at the Australian Museum, says the discovery is exciting.

“The significance of the discovery is that it demonstrates that flower mimicry in this species is used to actively attract prey rather than just being for camouflage,” he says.

Hymenopus coronatus

Hymenopus coronatus

English: Photo of Hymenopus coronatus, Olivier...

English: Photo of Hymenopus coronatus, Olivier, 1792 taken in the Zoologische Staatsammlung München. Deutsch: Foto eines Hymenopus coronatus, Olivier, 1792 aufgenommen in der Zoologischen Staatsammlung München. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can not beleive how big they have gotten, and the colors!! Thanks Mandy Blue and Tim Hansen for bringing your girls over again!

Posted by Darcy Evans Photography on Friday, June 28, 2013

Hymenopus coronatus- mating

Posted by Richard's Inverts on Saturday, January 31, 2015

10 thoughts on “Orchid Mantis: Imitation and Disguise

    • Thank you for your comment, KrautLilie Istnicht Von Rabenstein and L. B. Schwab! Yes, the European mantis is quite green in colour and less flamboyant when it is compared to the Orchid Mantis. SoundEagle may thus suppose that we have beautiful orchids to thank for “evolving” such an attractive species of preying mantis. According to Wikipedia:

      Mantis religiosa, with the common name praying mantis, and outside Europe the European mantis, is an insect in the family Mantidae. It is one of the most well-known and widespread species of the order Mantodea, the Mantis.

      It is an example of a common name for a single insect species becoming used for a larger group of related species. “Mantis” now refers to the insect order Mantodea, and the other families, genera, and species within it. Other examples are “hornet” and “wasp.”

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Insects have been a source of interest since a child .I couldn’t bear passing a dead bumble bee – possibly starved to death on a window sill in a neighbours stairwell & would conduct a funeral in the garden complete with a burial .As a teen I collected cocoons off a gum tree in the garden & carefully stored the icecream container above the wardrobe only to be distracted by an unusual noise months later as they were hatching ! The gum emperor moth is a beauty especially up close & personal . Growing swan plant in the garden was common place coz everybody loved the monarch butterfly & I replicated this practice while raising my brood 🙂
    Because we inherited an established garden we were blessed to have huge stick insects – that must have been a good age . They were gentle giants & very vonerable to severe weather conditions & of course preditors especially birds .
    SoundEagle introduced me to the orchid mantis & I’m not surprised that they are so clever in attracting insect meals !! It’s almost as if the beauty & longevity of the orchid will eventually get what it requires or wants !
    The mantis on the other hand is individual & a special patron just passing through , a master at stage makeup & costumery – quite the A – list Actor with an impressive string of successes .
    Just as Salvador Dali used to cage crickets & enjoy their music I can imagine Miss Mantis having her own Phalanopsis within an ornately decorated cage in a central position in a glorious conservatory or alfresco in a green room hanging prominently & easily viewed by all in attendance .Mother Nature is amazing & I am careful to respect her & her creatures especially if I want to see my grandchildren enjoy her also :-))

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, thenakedflorist, for the insightful elaboration on your keen interest in, and observation on, certain insects that you still remember with clarity and fondness since your childhood, as well as your clever descriptions of the orchid mantis in the style of a storybook for children. 🙂

      Whilst many people freely consider the orchid mantis to be the quintessential imposter of Phalaenopsis, the nature of its mimicry needs further clarification, which is provided by what SoundEagle has summarized in the newly added section entitled “Aggressive, Imperfect Mimicry with Supernormal Stimulus”. Your feedback is very welcome!


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