Mantis-fly

Even after a couple of years photographing bugs in my garden I come across insects which are quite new to me. I got another one just a couple of days ago, a mantis-fly:

Mantis fly hanging under frangipani leaf
A mantis-fly hanging beneath a frangipani leaf

The photo makes it look very much like a praying mantis but in real life you would notice that is is tiny compared to an ordinary green mantis like this. In fact, it is only 10-12mm long. A baby praying mantis could be this small but wouldn’t have wings – see this little brown one, for instance.

The mantis-fly does use the same hunting strategy as praying mantises – sit and wait, then grab with those over-developed front legs – but it is not closely related to them. Rather, it is a cousin of lacewings and ant-lions, a family within the order of Neuroptera. (Once again I will use an index page on Graeme’s Insects of Townsville site to illustrate the relationship.) There is a nice introduction to Neuroptera here, on the Queensland Museum website. There are 45 Australian species of Mantispidae and I’m not sure which one mine belongs to.

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