Peculiar praying mantis looks and acts like a wasp

It's like the method actor of the insect world.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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The Vespamantoida wherleyi mantis looks like a wasp and acts like one, too.

Cleveland Museum of Natural History

It looks like a wasp. It moves like a wasp. But it's not a wasp. Researchers with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History unveiled a newly discovered species of praying mantis that has evolved to mimic a wasp. Yes, it's totally weird.

The mantis lives in Peru along the Amazon River. The research team discovered it in 2013 when the bug came to investigate a light trap used to attract insects. Its red and orange colors weren't the only clues this mantis was different. It also mimicked a wasp's erratic movements.

Mantises are usually masters of camouflage. They blend into the colors of their surroundings and sometimes look like flowers or leaves. After extensive study, museum entomologist Gavin Svenson and his colleagues decided this showoff of a mantis was a new species that didn't match up with any previously known mantises.

"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," Svenson said.

Humans know wasps can be scary, and a lot other animals know that too. One of the best ways to scream "don't mess with me" is to look like an insect nobody wants to mess with. 

The researchers published their findings in the journal PeerJ on Thursday. The new species is now called Vespamantoida wherleyi. 

This wasp-like mantis is a good reminder that there's a lot we don't know about the insect world. "There are about 2,500 species of mantises described," Svenson said. "I'd put a bet on there being about 5,000." 

What other wild and wonderful mantises are hiding out? There could be tons of them, and they just might be in disguise.

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