Strange Creature Looks Like Part Praying Mantis and Part Wasp

Wasp Mantidfly (Climaciella_brunnea). Photo by Ilona Loser.
Wasp Mantidfly (Climaciella brunnea). Photo by Ilona Loser.

Take a look at this insect. Does it look like a wasp to you?

If you said yes, we can’t blame you, since it does, indeed, look like one. It has all of the features of a wasp, including the wasp-like head, the recognizable black and yellow stripes, and the bulbous thorax. Even the wings look wasp-like. Yet, you would be wrong.

This is actually a mantidfly — a nocturnal insect from a family named Mantispidae with more than 400 different species.

Let’s have a side-profile view.

Climaciella_brunnea_-_Wasp_Mantidfly by Ilona Loser
Wasp Mantidfly (Climaciella brunnea). Photo by Ilona Loser.

Now, it looks less like a wasp and more like a praying mantis. It has the head of a praying mantis and the raptorial front legs of one as well.

It even captures flies and other small insects with its front legs and eats them just like a praying mantis. But it is not a praying mantis either.

In fact, while mantidflies look like a cross between a wasp and a praying mantis, they are not even related to either group of insects. Instead, they are in the order Neuroptera, which consists of insects called lacewings or net-wings.

To see a mantidfly in action, watch the video below. You will see just how much this weird critter resembles wasps and mantises in appearance and behavior.

A captivating example of convergent evolution, the mantidfly mirrors both wasps and mantises despite having no direct relation to either. This insect’s misleading appearance is a testament to the adaptive artistry of nature, with its wasp-like features likely providing a predatory deterrent, and its mantis-like anatomy serving as an effective tool for hunting prey.

The mantidfly’s life cycle only adds to its intrigue. The larvae, upon hatching, latch onto spiders or infiltrate their egg sacs. In this seemingly macabre nursery, they feast on spider eggs until their transformation into the unique adults we recognize as mantidflies. This unusual cycle demonstrates nature’s relentless pursuit of survival, employing tactics that might seem alien to us, yet are remarkably effective.

In the vast tapestry of biodiversity, the mantidfly stands out as a biological marvel. With over 400 known species, each with their own slight variations and characteristics, mantidflies underline the boundless creativity of evolution.