The Egyptian Flower Mantis (Blepharopsis mendica) is also known as the Devil’s Flower Mantis, Thistle Mantis, and Arab Mantis, but of course, I like the Egyptian name. 🙂
These mantids are referred to as Praying Mantises because of the way they hold their forelegs folded in front, as if in prayer. Mantises are also characterized by their triangular heads and forward facing eyes.
Spring is the perfect time to spot these mantises in our desert wadis. Specifically, to spot the nymphs. After hatching from their egg, mantises continue to go through several stages of growth. At each stage, the nymphs shed their exoskeletons, a process called molting. The nymphs start out small, as you can see from the photo below, and look quite different from adults.
Adults can grow up to 6 cm long and are creamy-white with a marbled green pattern. And, of course, they have wings!
They have a small pointed shield on their backs and the inside of their forelegs are orange and blue with white spots. Females have thin antennae (above) and males have feathered antennae (below).
To notice these while wandering through wadis, you’ll have to stop and take a closer look at the plants. I have spotted these mantises on a variety of desert plants – capers, acacias, and nimnam – but most often I find them on dhafrah plants (Iphiona scabra), pictured below.
Egyptian Flower Mantises are experts at camouflage and wait patiently on the plant for prey to pass by. Their arms are well-designed to catch flying insects. In fact, what usually draws my attention is the sight of a butterfly, still and unmoving, on the bush. An odd sight as butterflies are usually flitting around quite a bit. On closer inspection, I’ll find the butterfly is not moving because it has become breakfast for either a mantis or a spider!
I’ve seen these mantises in several of the wadis around Dahab and also higher up in the area around St. Katherine’s. Where have you spotted them?