A Tiny Predator

Jan 14, 2009

If you meander over to the Bohart Museum of Entomology, UC Davis campus, you'll see a very tiny predator that looks for all the world like a green leaf. It's the Gambian spotted-eye flower mantis and it's one of the many live specimens housed there.

It's green with pointed eyes (it appears to have a pointy little head, too) and it grows to one-inch in length. Its scientific name is Pseudoharpax virescens (order Mantodea) and it's found in Gambia, the smallest country (in square miles) on the African continent.

And at the Bohart Museum of Entomology.

Bohart public outreach coordinator Brian Turner says that flower mantises spend their time hiding in flowers, waiting to ambush prey. It dines on insects.

If threatened, the Gambian spotted-eye flower mantis will lift its wings to expose its orange and purple coloring. This, Turner says, "will likely startle potential predators and cause them to lose track of the mantis when it lowers its wings again."

The Bohart Museum of Entomology,  founded in 1946, is located in 1124 Academic Surge. It is directed by Lynn Kimsey, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology.

Dedicated to teaching, research and service, the museum houses the seventh largest insect collection in North America.  The global collection totals more than seven million specimens. It also houses many live specimens, including Madagascar hissing cockroaches, Vietnamese centipedes, walking sticks, assassin bugs...and....mantids.

By Kathy Keatley Garvey
Author - Communications specialist

Attached Images:

TINY PREDATOR--This juvenile Gambian spotted-eyed flower mantis, less than an inch long, is one of the live specimens at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Gambian spotted-eye flower mantis

FLOWER MANTIS ON FINGER--This Gambian spotted-eye flower mantis finds a walking path on Brian Turner's finger at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. Turner serves as the public outreach coordinator. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Flower mantis on finger