Orchids are beautiful flowers—until you see one of them opening a pair of deadly arms and jaws to kill a butterfly who was just looking for some pollen to eat. That's what the orchid mantis does, the "first known predator to lure prey by mimicking flowers." Now, this process has been documented for the first time.
A new study by biologist James O'Hanlon and his team from the Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, has confirmed what was only a theory: unlike other predators who use camouflage to wait for prey hidden in their sources of food, the orchid mantis actually simulates being a source of food to capture its victims. The trick also serves them to avoid predators.
O'Hanlon documented that the deadly insect looks exactly the same as 13 species of wild flowers in its habitat in the Malaysian forests. Not only for the human eye, but also on the light spectrum but only visible to the pollinators who, unsuspecting the trick, approached the fake flower only to be snatched in mid-flight. In fact, the research team discovered that they are better at attracting pollinators that some flowers. In O'Hanlon's word to LiveScience:
We now know that not only is it possible for mantises to lure pollinators, but we know that they are amazingly good at it. They can attract even more pollinators than some flowers.
"Oh hai, I'm a flower!"—a lovely little bastard.