Posts Tagged: praying mantis
Today is Thanksgiving.
As we give thanks and reflect on a day set aside to be grateful, we realize that not all is great in the world of haves and have-nots, the generous and the greedy, and troublemakers and peacemakers.
Miscommunications turn into misunderstandings. Agreements turn into disagreements. Harmony turns into hostility. Like an open wound, tensions bulge, crack and fester. Life saddens, disappoints and crushes us.
But today is Thanksgiving, a day to be grateful. All around us, people are giving thanks, sharing memories, shoring up the holiday spirit, and feasting on turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries, and pumpkin pie. Among the many things we are grateful for: we are grateful that we are not a turkey.
Last summer as a praying mantis "prayed" for dinner in our bee garden, we were thankful we were not a bee.
On Thanksgiving, we're grateful we're not a bee, this bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Here's a good reason why you should not clean the fixtures around your porch lights--if you need a reason.
The lights attract all kinds of nocturnal flying insects. It's like the proverbial draw of a moth to a flame.
Spiders weave their webs on the light fixtures to trap their prey. If you remove the webs, you'll remove the insect smorgasbord.
Recently we saw an insect we'd never seen before on the light fixture: a praying mantis lying in wait, maybe to snare a moth or share the spider's bounty.
The porch light screams '"science project!" We remember our son's science projects in elementary school, including "Can a Plant Grow Upside Down?" and "How Fast Can a Yo-Yo Spin?" Somewhere the curious mind of a science student will look at the light on his or her front porch and ask: What insects are flying toward the night light and how many? How many predators are lying in wait? What do they eat? And, what roles do these lights and predators play in luring the insects to their death?
Meanwhile, the praying mantis has vanished. It's end of the season. Next year there will be many more praying mantids. One deposited an egg case beneath a table on the back porch. After they emerge and eat their brothers and sisters (no sibling love there!), one or more may hang out on the light fixture next year.
Porch lights attract predators and prey, including this predator, a praying mantis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Praying mantids are, oh, so patient.
They perch on a flower, their spiked forelegs seemingly locked in a praying position, and wait to ambush unsuspecting prey.
A green praying mantis recently did just that on our cosmos.
Usually we have to hunt for the mantids because they are so camouflaged or concealed.
Not this one.
This one was as visible as a green elephant in a field of snow.
Despite its conspicuous visibility, the attempts of this lean green machine proved fruitful. First, a honey bee. Then a fiery skipper.
His prayers were answered.
A praying mantis perches on a cosmos. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A strike! First prey is a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Second strike! A fiery skipper butterfly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A freeloader. A moocher. A sponger.
That's the freeloader fly.
A praying mantis is polishing off the remains of a honey bee. Suddenly a black dot with wings edges closer and closer and grabs a bit of the prey.
So tiny. So persistent. So relentless. That's the freeloader fly.
Don't look at the mangled honey bee. Don't look at the hungry praying mantis.
Look at the freeloader fly. Wait a few seconds and you'll see another.
The scene: a camouflaged praying mantis is tucked beneath some African blue basil leaves and the light is fading fast. (You could say I took this image "on the fly.")
Senior Insect Biosystematist Martin Hauser of the Plant Pest Diagnostic Branch, California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) identified these "freeloader flies" as family Milichiidae and "likely the genus Desmometopa." See Wikipedia.
They are so tiny, Hauser says, that the mantids, spiders and Reduviidae (think assassin bugs) "don't bother chasing them away or even trying to eat them."
Hauser pointed out images of freeloader flies from BugGuide.net: http://bugguide.net/node/view/23319/bgimage
And look at all the freeloaders on this prey: http://bugguide.net/node/view/512989/bgimage
Back in March of 2012, agricultural entomologist Ted C. MacRae who writes a popular blog, Beetles in the Bush, posted an image of an assassin bug eating a stink bug. Check out all the flies engaging in what he calls kleptoparasitism--stealing food.
Everybody gets fed. Nobody leaves hungry.
Praying mantis eats a honey bee while a freeloader fly, family Milichilidae, does, too. Another freeloader edges closer. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The freeloader fly is quite persistent. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
We've trained puppies to "come," "sit" and "heel."
We've trained an African grey parrot to say "Here, kitty, kitty, kitty! Meow!"
We've trained the kitty to ignore the parrot.
But how do you train a praying mantis?
Our resident praying mantis, the lean green machine, conceals himself in the African blue basil. That's been home, sweet home for the past week. Before that, it was the lantana, catmint, Mexican sunflower and cosmos. He goes where the bees are and the bees are now all over the African blue basil.
We cannot create a "No fly zone." We cannot ban the bees from traveling. And we cannot ban the praying mantis from doing what he does best: ambushing prey and eating them.
Lately, however, he's allowed us to photograph him in the early morning, before his bee breakfast.
He does not respond to "Say cheese!"
Nor does he respond to "Say bee!" Or "Say Apis mellifera!"
You cannot train a praying mantis.
Praying mantis stretches in the African blue basil. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A little aerobics under the cosmos, as a bee does a flyover. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's not "Say cheese!" It's "Say bee!" (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)