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Antlions, Praying Mantis and unusual Tenerife and Canary Islands insects

Interesting insects of Tenerife

Tenerife's wide variety of natural habitats and semi-tropical to tropical temperatures that are typical of the Canary Islands make it an ideal home for very many unusual insects.

One of the most spectacular is the weird looking Praying Mantis species Blepharopsis mendica, which is fairly common in the south of the island. Adults have spotted wingcases and plumed antennae and just like the nymphs they have eyes that look like something straight out of a Sci-fi movie. There are also several other species of mantis found on Tenerife.

Antlions are also found in Tenerife and these insects have a fiercesome larval stage in which the young insect hides itself in the sand and waits for ants and small insects to come its way when it seizes them with its mighty mandibles. The adult antlion looks far more like a damselfly and has four delicate wings and a thin body. Unlike the damselfly, however, it flies at night. Myrmeleon alternans is the species of antlion found on the island.

Check out these Hawk Moth items to buy

Tenerife's dragonflies

Speaking of damselfies there is one species, the Saharan Damselfly (Ischnura elegans saharensis), which breeds in freshwater and brackish pools.

There are also several species of much larger dragonflies and of these the bright blue males of the Emperor (Anax imperator) and those of the bright red Scarlet Darter (Crocothemis erythraea) dragonflies are the most commonly seen. The females tend to keep a lower profile and are not so brightly coloured with the female Emperor being a greenish shade and the female Scarlet Darter has a yellowish body.

The dragonflies breed in the reservoirs and irrigation tanks around the island as well as any freshwater ponds they can find, most of which are in parks and gardens. Often you can see the discarded skins of the nymphs that are left behind on walls when they have climbed out of the water to complete their metamorphosis and the adults have emerged and flown. Having shed their skin they leave their old life behind for a new one in the air.

The Leaf-legged Bug (Leptoglossus membranaceus) gets its name from the projections on its legs that look like the insect is wearing jodhpurs. It feeds on various plants and flies in the sunlight. The Seed Bug (Spilotethus pandurus) is a very colourful species also found on Tenerife.

The Robber Fly (Promarchus latitarsatus) is also active in the sunshine when it hunts winged insects including bees, butterflies and moths and other types of fly, and it kills them by a bite with its proboscis. Its larva lives in the ground and in rotting wood and eats other insect larvae.

Whilst many butterflies are becoming rare and endangered due to human developments the African Grass Blue (Zizeeria knysna ) proves the exception to this and is often found in built-up areas where it thrives where there are lawns with patches of clover, which its caterpillars can eat. If you can spot a clump of White Clover (Trifolium repens) then the chances are you will see this pretty little butterfly too, especially if the gardeners do not mow the grass too often.

In some places in the Tenerife resorts like Las Americas there are quite large colonies of the African Grass Blue wherever lawns are maintained, and it also can be seen flitting around flower beds of the main squares in Puerto de la Cruz. This little butterfly is a real opportunist and takes advantage of what people have created.

The large and brightly-coloured Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) is an insect you simply cannot fail to miss seeing on the island. These beautiful insects soar and glide through the air over gardens and parks stopping to feed on nectar from the many exotic flowers that grow on Tenerife.

The stripey caterpillars can only feed on species of Milkweed (Asclepias) so are only found where this plant is grown. The Scarlet Milkweed was introduced as a garden flower and this enabled this pretty butterfly to extend its range and to live in the Canary Islands.

The Monarch is famous for its fantastic migrations across America from the north to the south and back again each year. In Tenerife the butterflies have no need to migrate because the climate stays warm enough for them all year round, which means we can expect to see them even in the winter months.

Besides the butterflies of Tenerife there are some interesting moths too and the biggest of these is the Death Head's Hawk Moth (Acherontia atropos), which has a huge caterpillar that can be either yellow, green or brown and has a spike on its tail. It can click its mandibles if alarmed and the adult moth can squeak. It feeds on many plants in the Nightshade family (Solanaceae )including the Potato as well as species in the Verbenaceae like the Yellow Sage (Lantana camara) and the Tulip Tree (Spathodea campanulata) in the Bignoniaceae .

The adult moth is the subject of many superstitions because of the skull-like marking on its thorax and it is featured in the publicity for the movie Silence of the Lambs. Another strange habit of this species is that the moth will raid beehives and steal the honey.

The Death Head's Hawk Moth is a migrant species and it sometimes finds it way to the UK where it lays its eggs in potato fields.

Another hawk moth commonly found on Tenerife is the Vine Hawk (Hippotion celerio) and as you would expect its caterpillar feeds on grape vines as well as various other plants. The adult is another large and magnificent moth but because of its larva's choice of food it isn't very popular with farmers and gardeners on the island.

Copyright © 2010 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.

Insects of Tenerife

Antlion adult

Antlion adult

Adult Praying Mantis

Adult Praying Mantis

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Praying Mantis Nymph

Praying Mantis Nymph

Scarlet Darter male

Scarlet Darter male

Emperor dragonfly nymph skins

Emperor dragonfly nymph skins

Leaf-legged Bugs

Leaf-legged Bugs

Seed Bug

Seed Bug

Robber Fly

Robber Fly

African Grass Blue on clover

African Grass Blue on clover

Clover patch supporting a colony of Blues

Clover patch supporting a colony of Blues

Death Head's Hawk Moth

Death Head's Hawk Moth

Vine Hawk caterpillar

Vine Hawk caterpillar


Steve Andrews (author) from Lisbon, Portugal on February 23, 2013:

Thank you for your comments!

anonymousdoll on February 23, 2013:

Vine Hawk caterpillar. It has big eyes and a nice smile on its face. It is a beautiful creature indeed.

anonymousdoll on February 23, 2013:

I love this blog. It is very important to focus on the little things in life. The little things have a large insect heaven waiting for them in the big sky. The small things shall inherit the earth.

Steve Andrews (author) from Lisbon, Portugal on March 25, 2012:

Thank you for saying so!

Marissa on March 24, 2012:

Cool insects. : )

Steve Andrews (author) from Lisbon, Portugal on May 25, 2011:

Thank you for posting!

hanwillingham on May 25, 2011:

I love mantis. Great,

Steve Andrews (author) from Lisbon, Portugal on October 10, 2009:

Try borax, or boric acid powder - mix it with some sugar and put it where the ants go. Yes, they are a nuisance! They are indeed, looking for food. Because they are so tiny they can go through small cracks in walls back to where their nest is.

Jackie Macdonnell on October 10, 2009:

I would like to ask you about some really tiny ants that come indoors. once we had half a wall covered in them. sometimes they have gone on the draining part of the sink. other people have said they go for food. sometimes we see where they are coming from, but not where they are going to. How do we get rid of them.Thankyou.

Steve Andrews (author) from Lisbon, Portugal on July 19, 2009:

Thank you, GeneralHowitzer!

Gener Geminiano from Land of Salt, Philippines on July 18, 2009:

Wow a well documented article loaded with superb pictures... Way to go good ol' man. I love your hubs, especially this one...

Steve Andrews (author) from Lisbon, Portugal on April 14, 2009:

If they are Egyptian bats I think they should be caught and sent back to a country they are native to not killed. It wasn't their fault they were brought here to begin with. As for being a danger to the ecology seeing as they eat fruit I would think they were more of a threat to fruit crops than wild plants and I would argue that all the trees here produce a vast vast surplus of seeds the majority of which go to waste eg Dragon trees that produce hundreds of berries. These get pruned off and thrown away whilst at the same time the tree is endangered and protected species in the wild. Or you can buy a couple of seeds in a packet for just over 1€. Same thing applies to the Canary date palm. None of it makes a lot of sense!

Julie-Tenerife on April 14, 2009:

I seem to have waylaid your insects hub a wee bit so I will not mention the bats here again. I'll let you know if I receive a positive id from any bat forum that I contact. You are a fountain of information, Steve. Many thanks again.

Steve Andrews (author) from Lisbon, Portugal on April 14, 2009:

I am just replying on your site. I can't say what they are because I am no bat expert and have never heard bats as loud as that. I am used to British bats and the Pipistrelle type I have seen here which don't make all that noise. If they are big then they may be the Egyptian fruit bat that got out from Loro Parque and there has been a lot of bad press for as a threat to the island.  See

I saw in Tenerife News a couple of years back that money was allocated to exterminate them.

Also see

Julie-Tenerife on April 14, 2009:

That's the little blighters! Damn. More of a problem than first thought then. Thanks for the info. Now at least I know what I am up against,

On the bat front I am totally tickled that I finally got a little video of them this morning. Every time I go out with the camera they disappear but not today! I've got to get kids to school but I'll get the vid up later. These are big guys and like I say - noisy. They sound like kazoos. :)

Steve Andrews (author) from Lisbon, Portugal on April 13, 2009:

Great news that there are bats by your place - they have had a hard time here and some of the seven species I read have been down to very low numbers. I was thinking the other night how the rain will be a real help to them with all the insects flying at night now.

Clothes moths look like the one in the pic here:

Julie-Tenerife on April 13, 2009:

I actually found a couple of live ones in a tupperware container of rock salt which I thought was weird but even after clearing out whatever might have been harbouring the wee beasties in my food cupboard I am still finding them all over the house - except, so far clothes cupboards. I am near a lot of greenery so maybe all the rain is bringing them in. I have noticed some lively (and noisy!) bats around in the morning and wanted to ask you about them too ... LOL.

Steve Andrews (author) from Lisbon, Portugal on April 13, 2009:

There are a lot of small moths on this island. Indoors we can expect to see clothes moths and they are a pest and they also feed on stored foods besides clothes. I hope they are not what you are seeing. Moths from outside come in drawn by the light - there are very many species. Right now because of the large amount of rain we have had the insect life including moths are doing really well because plants grow better with more water and more plants means more food for caterpillars. This will in turn benefit the birds and bats.

Clothes moths have long wings that are folded making a stick shape. There are some very small pug and wave (looper caterpillar) moths that rest with all their four wings flat out and there are also plume moths that look like little aeroplanes.

Julie-Tenerife on April 13, 2009:

I seem to have a plague of little moths in my house at the moment. Is this a seasonal thing do you suppose? I don't remember this kind of invasion any past spring in Tenerife.

Steve Andrews (author) from Lisbon, Portugal on April 01, 2009:

Thank you! Yes, there are several species of mantis on Tenerife and the type in the photo is quite often found in the south of the island. It is the only type I have seen but there are two more species found here.

Tenerife News on April 01, 2009:

I didn't know we had preying mantis here!

As for "Ant lions" - I have been playing a shoot-em up game recently where ant lions are humungous man-eating beast, again didn't even know they were real!

Great article and a good read

Steve Andrews (author) from Lisbon, Portugal on February 23, 2009:

Yes, I do - basically because the world and the universe is so amazing! It is such a great shame that so many cannot see this and that so much is being done to mess up our part in it all!

Shannon from New York on February 23, 2009:

I see you love a lot of things. Your an inspiration.

Steve Andrews (author) from Lisbon, Portugal on February 21, 2009:

Thank you! As you will have gathered I love insects!

Shannon from New York on February 21, 2009:

Dragonflies are among my most favorite things on this earth! (see my hub "Dragonfly Art) I have a tattoo of a purple dragonfly on my left shoulder blade. One morning, a few years back, I sat at the kitchen table drinking my first cup of coffee, and I noticed something on the screen of my window. It was the largest dragonfly I had ever seen! I will say the wing span was (about) 5-6 inches! It was a brownish-red color, and I honestly thought it was dead, because it didn't move when I tapped on the window. I studied it for a few minutes before I went outside to inspect it... Then it flew away, but I was in awe at it's size!

As for the praying mantis pic here, I would've been afraid to touch it! Hahaha

Another great hub! ENCORE!

Steve Andrews (author) from Lisbon, Portugal on December 08, 2008:

Where was that?

binoculardoctor on December 08, 2008:

a bright blue fly about 1" long with red eyes flew into my shop a few nights ago. While flying, it flew in circles.

Steve Andrews (author) from Lisbon, Portugal on October 01, 2008:

Selina, you have found it yourself - the Death's Head Hawk is common on the island. There are green and brown forms of the caterpillar too. As it happens there is a photo of the adult moth in the selection included above.

selina on October 01, 2008:


This is the page it was on. I think I've done it right now....sorry not very good on the computer...selina.

selina on October 01, 2008:

I looked at the site and it didn't look like that, it was bright yellow with grey/black small lines. but mostly bright yellow. We saw it on one of those wild yellow plants that grow everywhre. I've looked on the web but can't seem to find it. I'll have a look again.

chears for your help.


Steve Andrews (author) from Lisbon, Portugal on September 30, 2008:

I have done that walk too and went to Las Gangarras to see the frogs. I also spotted a Small Copper butterfly along the way. I think the caterpillar you saw was a Spurge Hawk Moth. Please have a look at this site to confirm if it was or not:

selina on September 30, 2008:

My daughter and I spotted a caterpillar around 4-5 inches long and yellow with grey/black markings on it. We saw it while walking from Guaza to Buzanada and wondered if you know what sort it is and what butterfly it will turn into.

Thanks for any help you can give us.


Steve Andrews (author) from Lisbon, Portugal on June 23, 2008:

Marisue, the Robber Fly gave some people who own a bar here the creeps too and were about to kill it after it had flown in there but I rescued it and he or she appeared in my newspaper column. It's funny how many people share your reaction to insects. I find them very beautiful and fascinating creatures as you can see. I have a cat called Old Lad though who is terrified of flies and mosquitos and he will run out of the room if he sees or hears one.

marisuewrites from USA on June 22, 2008:

Creepy Crawlies give me the creeps, but at a distance I value their existence and marvel in their beauty and purpose. I was able to look at these little creatures you showed here with nary a shiver.

Very interesting, and how great mother nature. Thank you for another educational hub.

JazzRoc from El Medano, Tenerife, Canary Islands on June 05, 2008:

Thanks, Bard!

Steve Andrews (author) from Lisbon, Portugal on June 05, 2008:

Thanks, JazzRoc!

The only large blue dragonfly is the male Emperor (Anax imperator).

My friend Priscilla Hernandez has a song The Call of the Nymph inspired by one which died on her hand. There is a hub about Priscilla here:

JazzRoc from El Medano, Tenerife, Canary Islands on June 04, 2008:

Hi Steve. Once again you have written an excellent article.

Living in the south of the island, I can confirm the praying mantis, and the scarlet darter. The latter loves fresh-water swimming pools here!

The mantis fell out of a tamarix bush (by Manina's Cafe at the Cabezo) into my coffee-cup, which fortunately I had just drained. It was quite dead. It was beautifully camouflaged for its work in the tamarix - it must have got its suit from the army and navy stores. It now features in the biology department of Wingate School.

High up the hill (4,000ft!), whilst reconnoitering for a finca, a large iridescent blue dragonfly with a 75mm body and possibly a 100mm wingspan caused a bit of excitement by flying in one window, lapping the car interior before leaving by another window, whilst the car was in motion. It was an exciting opportunity to dive into a deep barranco which I chose not to take.

Could you identify this dragonfly?

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