It was an inconspicuous insect, only around 2cm long and given its intricate patterns of pink and green with whitish bands, it was surprisingly hard to spot from afar when it moved off somewhere else. Until I reached home, the little creature stayed a pretty mantis and nothing more but that changed when Mr Kurt cleared its identity. It was a Theopropus elegans, The Banded Flower Mantis and it was a male.
The banded flower mantis is strictly a forest dependent species and in Singapore, it is very rare. There have been a few sightings in the past that mainly come from the central catchment nature reserves. Surprisingly, no male specimens have been encountered here as of 2008 and I an unaware of any more recent records - possibly making this one the first!
Ferocious predators, these mantids are known to hunt a wide range of insects - flies, moths, grasshoppers and even katydids. I suspect this male had been lured out from the adjacent Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, where there have been previous records of females, by the flowering orchids which attracted a great number of insect prey. The females are over twice the size of the males and their colour ranges from green to a stunning pink.
I am still in shock, having seen such a rare and beautiful creature. It was pure luck that I encountered it. Interestingly, a female was observed around the same time amongst tiger orchids at a different location. It is encouraging to know that this lovely mantis is still breeding in the depths of our small forest patches and hopefully we would be able to study it better in the future.
I owe almost all my knowledge of the banded flower mantis to this fantastic report, published in 2008 by T.M. Leong and Npark's S.C. Teo. It documents previous sightings and also follows the rearing of the mantid's eggs. I believe it may also be the only comprehensive report on this species from our little island so give it a read!