Wasp-Mimicking Praying Mantis Discovered in Peru

Posted on October 18, 2019

Vespamantoida wherleyi

Scientists have discovered the first species of praying mantis known to conspicuously mimic a wasp. The wasp was near the Amazon River in Peru in 2013.

The new mantis species has a bright red-orange coloration and body structure, erratic motion patterns and antennae behavior associated with most wasp species. The species has been named Vespamantoida wherleyi. The mantis was identified by Cleveland Museum of Natural History Director of Research & Collections and Curator of Invertebrate Zoology Dr. Gavin Svenson and former Case Western Reserve University graduate student, Henrique Rodrigues.

Dr. Svenson says in a statement, "There are about 2,500 species of mantises described. I'd put a bet on there being about 5,000. So, I think we're just halfway there. I think the most interesting thing about this family of mantises is the fact that most of the adults do mimic wasps, and that is quite unique for praying mantises. I think the next natural thing is to study the evolutionary biology of the lineage. If wasp mimicry is successful in this lineage, why has it not evolved in the other lineages as well? Why have no other species within the family evolved brightly colored wasp mimicry? We’re just not sure."

Dr. Svenson talks about the discovery and the new mantis in the following video.



A research paper on the mantis was published in the journal, Peer J.

Image: Gavin Svenson, Cleveland Museum of Natural History