Thursday, September 10, 2015

Mantispid in the House

At some point last night, and unbeknownst to me until this morning, an adorable mantispid snuck inside my house; likely when I was hauling in the groceries. These are one of my favorite insects. A book entitled Florida's Fabulous Insects by Mark Deyrup, describes them thusly:

"The mantisfly looks like the prank of an unusually deft student, who has 
attached the front end of a miniature mantis to a lacewing."

Superficially, mantispids, or mantisflies, look like little preying mantids but they are not related. The mantispids are more closely related to ant lions and lacewings, whereas preying mantids are more closely related to cockroaches. The modified front legs of the mantispid are used in the same manner as mantids, to quickly grasp prey. Mantispid larvae seek out spider egg sacs and feed on the eggs.

Here's the little bugger on my hand so you can roughly gauge its size 

While in my custody, the mantispid did some adorable things such as clean its feet quite meticulously and do what appeared to be stretching exercises with its raptorial front limbs.

As if that were not cute enough, here is a sequence of photographs wherein the mantispid presumably sees its reflection in the lens and attacks the camera:

And here are some extreme closeups courtesy of my friend B's dissecting scope:

After taking pictures with the scope, I released the mantispid in my garden on a small patch of milkweed. It immediately flew away to perch in the high bough of a nearby pine tree. 
Farewell sweet mantisfly!

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