Mantispidae is a family of small to moderate-sized net-winged insects, known as mantidflies, mantispids, mantid lacewings or mantis-flies. There are many genera with around 400 species worldwide, especially in the tropics and subtropics. Only 6 genera and 15 species in North America, and only 5 species of Mantispa occur in Europe.

Description and ecology

About 5–47 mm long and with a wingspan of 5-30 mm, some mantidflies (e.,g. Climaciella brunnea) are wasp mimics, but most are brownish with green, yellow and sometimes red hues. They get their name from their mantis-like appearance, as their spiny "raptorial" front legs are modified to catch small insect prey and are very similar to the front legs of mantids. The adults are predatory insects that are often nocturnal, and are sometimes attracted by porch lights or blacklights. They are usually green, brown, yellow, and sometimes pink, and have 4 membranous wings which may sometimes be patterned (especially in wasp mimicking species) but are usually clear. Adult mantidflies are predators of suitably-sized insects, which they catch as mantids do. Mantidflies are active hunters; as usual for Neuroptera, they are cumbersome flyers however.

They lay small, green, stalked eggs in clusters. The larvae of some mantidflies undergo hypermetamorphosis, being campodeiform in the first instar and scarabaeiform in later instars. Symphrasinae larvae may be scarabaeiform throughout; they are sedentary parasitoids on bee, wasp or scarab beetle larvae. Larvae of the Calomantispinae are predators of small arthropods, and in at least one species they are mobile. Mantispinae have the most specialized larval development among all mantidflies studied to date (the life history of the Drepanicinae remains unknown): their campodeiform larvae seek out female spiders or their egg sacs which they then enter; the scarabaeiform larvae then feed on the spider eggs, pupating in the egg sac.


They belong to the order Neuroptera, which includes the lacewings and owlflies as well. The mantidflies are apparently most closely related to the Dilaridae (pleasing lacewings) and the thorny (Rhachiberothidae) and beaded lacewings (Berothidae) These and the prehistoric Mesithonidae - probably a paraphyletic assemblage rather than a natural group - form the superfamily Mantispoidea.

Many mantidflies are placed in one of the 4 subfamilies. But a considerable number of taxa cannot be easily accommodated in this layout, and are therefore better treated as incertae sedis at present. Some fossil taxa may be of an altogether quite basal position, for example the Jurassic Liassochyrsa and Promantispa. Most living genera from which fossil species are also known go back to the Miocene; the Oligocene "Climaciella" henrotayi probably does not belong in the living genus. The distinct Mesomantispa is often placed in a monotypic subfamily Mesomantispinae, but given its uncertain position due to no clearly related mantidflies having been found yet in the fossil record, this may well be premature. Basal and incertae sedis mantidfly genera are:

Paraberotha, Retinoberotha and Whalfera were formerly placed here, but have since been recognized as Rhachiberothidae, the latter provisionally so.



  • (2007): Fauna Europaea - Mantispidae Version of 2007-APR-19. Retrieved 2008-MAY-02.
  • (2007): The neuropterid fauna of Dominican and Mexican amber (Neuropterida, Megaloptera, Neuroptera). American Museum Novitates 3587: 1-58. PDF fulltext
  • (2008): Mikko's Phylogeny Archive: Neuroptera Version of 2008-MAR-11. Retrieved 2008-APR-27.

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