Stick Mantis

While on a recent photography excursion at a local park I encountered what I thought was some sort of stick bug.  It was so well camouflaged I probably would not have noticed it except that it had captured a Gulf Fritillary butterfly.  After a few fruitless database searches, I discovered that this was not a stick bug at all. 

Brunneria borealis - Brunner's Mantis

This insect is a Brunner’s Mantis (Brunneria borealis), a rare mantid native to the southeastern United States.  It has underdeveloped wings and does not fly.  What is most interesting is that the species only consists of females and it reproduces asexually, laying eggs without male fertilization.  Not much is known about their diet, but they apparently will consume the unwary butterfly.  This specimen was about seven inches long hanging out in some low flowers and grass about a foot off of the ground.

Brunneria borealis - Brunner's Mantis

You also might notice in the photo above a small fly on the mantis.  This is likely a Milichiid, sometimes called freeloader or jackal fly.  They are kleptoparasites often waiting on predatory invertebrates for a free meal.

Brunneria borealis - Brunner's Mantis
Brunneria borealis – Brunner’s Mantis consuming Gulf Frittilary Butterfly (Agraulis vanillae). Photographed at Pear Park, Lake County, Florida USA