Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by John. John Wonders, “What insect can mimic a wasp?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, John!

We bet you already know quite a bit about bugs. Maybe you’ve learned where they sleep or why some of them stink. Some bugs might frighten you. Or perhaps you’ve made a meal out of insects! But even the most informed kid experts might struggle to identify the bug at the center of today’s Wonder of the Day.

That’s because today’s Wonder is all about an insect whose appearance can be a bit confusing. Many people who see one think it might be a wasp. Others think it looks more like a praying mantis. What are we talking about? The mantidfly, of course!

What are mantidflies? You may know them as mantisflies. They’re part of the scientific family Mantispidae. In total, there are over 400 species of these insects. They live all over the world but are most common in tropical and subtropical habitats.

What do mantidflies look like? Well, it depends on which species you’re dealing with. Many of them mimic the wasp, but it’s not the stinger you need to watch out for on this insect. Instead, the mantidfly’s prey should be trying to avoid its front legs, which are built to grab and hold the bug’s food as it eats.

Are mantidflies dangerous to humans? Not at all! It’s spiders that need to look out for these bugs. As larvae, many species of mantidflies live on spiders as parasites. Some do so in order to sneak into the spider’s egg sacs and feed on their young. 

Adult mantidflies grow to be about one inch long. They’re often brown or green, but can also appear yellow or red. The insects have four wings, but don’t fly particularly well. Still, their large front legs make them formidable predators to other bugs. Some even eat their own kind.

Despite its resemblance to both the wasp and praying mantis, the mantidfly isn’t closely related to either. Instead, it’s more biologically similar to lacewings, another predatory insect. Both of these bugs are attracted to light—you might find either near your porch light during warm months!

Have you ever seen a mantidfly? Maybe you have, but thought it was a wasp or praying mantis! This unique insect can certainly be difficult to identify. If you do come across one, have no fear! Mantidflies are much more interested in other bugs than they are in you.

Standards: NGSS.LS1.A, NGSS.LS1.C, NGSS.LS4.C, NGSS.LS4.D, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.W.7, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2

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