Friday, December 11, 2015

Mantis Fly - A perfect mimic for Preying Mantis

I was having my photography walk at Karnala Bird Sanctuary in monsoon. Though the season was very good for macro life, somehow on that particular day the insect activity was very low. No butterflies and other insects were visible. I spotted few spiders with egg sacks. So i was busy with shooting of the spider moms and their tiny spiderlings. Suddenly i saw some movement around me... a small wasp settled on a dry twig few meters away. It was very tiny hardly 5-8 mm in size. This is very tiny Mantis Fly female from family Mantispidae (of course i came to know this afterwards as i was not seen such creature in last so many years). The female Mantis Fly landed on the small twig and stared laying eggs by circling. Soon the entire twig was covered with tiny white eggs. This entire process took more than 30 minutes. 

The mantis fly is actually a remarkable creature. From a distance, it looks almost exactly like a wasp. As you look closer, though, you'll notice it has claws like a praying mantis. Despite its fearsome appearance, mantis flies don't sting and are pretty much harmless to humans. They get their name from their mantis-like appearance, as their spiny "raptorial" (raptor-like) front legs are modified to catch small insect prey and are very similar to the front legs of mantis. The Mantispoidea are a superfamily of lacewing insects in the suborder Hemerobiiformia. Mantispidae, known commonly as mantis flies, mantispids, mantis lacewings or mantis-flies, is a family of small to moderate-sized insects in the order Neuroptera. There are many genera with around 400 species worldwide. Mantis fly larvae are predatory especially on spider eggs so they generally ride on female spiders. There are not common because they are nocturnal but more active hunters than true preying mantis.   

The subgroups of mantis fly have different specialized larvae. One subgroup has larvae that are parasite on bees, wasps. Another group's larvae are predators of small Arthropods. Third group have larvae parasitic on spider eggs. These larvae have well developed legs like the larvae of beetle so they can search out spider egg sacs or female spiders. They ride on female spiders and are even transferred from one spider to another during mating or cannibalism.  These larvae enter the egg sacs as the female spins them.. That means these larvae remain on spider like lice on our head. 

Location : Karnala Bird Sanctuary, on 23.08.2015 9.56 am
Nikon D7100, Tamron 90 mm VC macro with Nikon R1C1 flash

Yuwaraj Gurjar