The Bark and Ground mantises (genus Tarachodes) are praying mantises of the family Tarachodidae that are native to the Afrotropics.
Youngest son found this cutie in his room and before he put him safely on a tree in our garden, I took a few shots of it on his hand.
Bark mantis is a common name given to various species of praying mantis, especially those with cryptic camouflage resembling tree bark.
It was such a friendly little cutie, and I couldn’t stop taking photos of it. :D
Handré Basson at S.A. Butterflies, Bugs, Bees and other small things on Facebook confirmed the species and that it’s a nymph.
As in related insect groups, mantises go through three stages of metamorphosis: egg, nymph, and adult (mantises are among the hemimetabolic insects). The nymph and adult insect are structurally quite similar, except that the nymph is smaller and has no wings or functional genitalia. The nymphs are also sometimes colored differently from the adult, and the early stages are often mimics of ants.
A mantis nymph increases in size (often changing its diet as it does so) by replacing its outer body covering with a sturdy, flexible exoskeleton and molting when needed. Molting can happen from five to ten times, depending on the species. After the final molt most species have wings, though some species are wingless or brachypterous (“short-winged”), particularly in the female sex.
Most mantises are exclusively predatory while exceptions occur. Insects are their primary prey, but the diet of a mantis changes as it grows larger. In its first instar a mantis eats small insects such as tiny flies or its own siblings. In later instars it does not or cannot profitably pursue such small prey.
Mantises are camouflaged, and most species make use of protective coloration to blend in with the foliage or substrate, both to avoid predators, and to better snare their prey. Various species have evolved to not only blend with the foliage, but to mimic it, appearing as either living or withered leaves, sticks, tree bark, blades of grass, flowers, or even stones.
Mantises have two grasping, spiked forelegs in which prey items are caught and held securely. Mantises may have a visual range of up to 20 metres. The dark spot on each eye is a pseudopupil. As their hunting relies heavily on vision, mantises are primarily diurnal.
In the final instar as a rule the diet still includes more insects than anything else, but large species have been known to prey on small scorpions, lizards, frogs, birds, snakes, fish, and even rodents; they feed on any species small enough for them to capture, but large enough to engage their attention.
The majority of mantises are ambush predators that only feed upon live prey a short distance within their reach, but some ground and bark species actively pursue their prey. Species that are predominantly ambush predators camouflage themselves and spend long periods standing perfectly still. They largely wait for their prey to stray within reach, but most mantises chase tempting prey if it strays closely enough.
A mantis catches prey items and grips them with grasping, spiked forelegs. The mantis usually holds its prey with one arm between the head and thorax, and the other on the abdomen. Then, if the prey does not resist, the mantis eats it alive. However, if the prey does resist, the mantis often eats it head first, some species of mantises being more prone to the behaviour than others.
While mantises can bite, they have no venom. They can also slash captors with their raptorial legs (which is often preceded by a threat display wherein the mantis rears back and spreads its front legs and wings (if present), often revealing vivid colors and/or eyespots to startle a predator).
Mantises are without chemical protection; many large insectivores eat mantises, including scops owls, shrikes, bullfrogs, chameleons, and milk snakes.