My next-door neighbour told me about these mantids in a rose bush in his garden. Three of them have taken up residence in a pink-flowering rosebush and have been there for over a week.

Cryptically coloured, the mantids are in disguise more to deceive potential prey than to protect themselves. They catch pollinators and spiders that visit the flowers.

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I was surprised at how small these mantids are – officially 3 to 5 cm in length – considerably less than the length of these rose petals

These gorgeous creatures are one of the flower mantids. I think the ones on my neighbour’s rose bush are the Eyed-Flower Mantis (Pseudocreobotra wahlbergii), also known as the Spiny Flower Mantis, but it is possible that they could be the Harpagomantis tricolor, known simply as the Flower Mantis. The main difference is that the former has a clearly defined “eye spot” on the wings of the adults, but I think that the ones I photographed are nymphs on the way to adulthood, in one of the early stages of the six or seven moults they undergo before they reach maturity. Interestingly, the nymphs start out resembling small black ants.

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After their arrival, these mantids slowly changed colour, gradually taking on the pink tones of the roses that they had made their home  

I have read that mantids can be quite territorial and tend to remain on one plant for a long time. The three on this rose bush seem tolerant of each other, and when I visited, two were lurking on the same bloom.

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These mantids are quite shy and hide in the petals when approached

Flower mantids occur throughout South Africa, except in the more arid western areas. They are hard to spot as they are so small, shy and cryptically coloured.

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I was very pleased to see them and now need to be more observant when passing by flowering plants in our garden. Perhaps if I am more aware, I may find more of these tiny wary creatures.

Posted by Carol