This is likely the coolest insect I’ve encountered in some time. I discovered it a couple of days ago, at our Maplewood Bog MAPS station. It had flown to, or crawled up on, my backpack and I only noticed it as I was going to reach inside to pull out a snack. I knew right away what it was from browsing through my Kaufman Insect Guide from time to time, though the specific ID would have to wait till I could get back home to look it up. Its front legs give it away: it’s a mantisfly, and it does in fact use its front legs much like a praying mantis, the organism from which its name is derived, would do. Just like their namesakes, mantisflies will stalk other smaller insects and snatch them with their strong front limbs. The larvae are also predatory, but some are very specialized in their choice of prey: they predate the egg sacs of spiders, and to reach the egg sac they’ll ride around on the female spider until she lays the eggs, at which point it jumps ship, sneaks inside, and has a handy stockpile of food to see it through its development.
This particular species is Climaciella brunnea, the Wasp Mantisfly (BugGuide calls them mantidflies, while the KIG calls them mantisflies; I find the s easier to say than the d). Its coloration and general shape is intended to mimic paper wasps in the genus Polistes (I think that bit stuck to its abdomen is a stray bit of brown leaf or somesuch, and not actually part of the disguise). It does a pretty good job of this, and I expect this mimicry affords it some protection from predators who think twice before catching a wasp, even though the mantisfly itself won’t sting. Although I found this one on my backpack, they’re most often encountered on flowers, where probably they sit in wait for their prey in the form of insects coming to sip on the nectar. BugGuide suggests that mating will take place on the flowers as well. Apparently while they’re not rare, they’re not all that common, either, so I was glad that this one was considerate enough to seek me out!