Posts Tagged: praying mantis
It's sort of like watching the grass grow, or the paint dry, but there's much more drama.
These, as children's book author Eric Carle writes in the children's book, "The Very Hungry Caterpillars," are very hungry caterpillars.
They're famished. They're ravenous. They could eat a horse (except they don't eat horses). And that's a good thing, as Martha Stewart would say.
If they're allowed to, these caterpillars will decimate the leaves, spin cocoons and eventually turn into spectacular reddish-orange butterflies (Agraulis vanillae).
So, you're sitting there watching the caterpillars eat. And out of the shadows, something else appears.
You think you're the only ones watching them eat? Think again.
A Gulf Fritillary caterpillar ready to eat the leaves of a passionflower vine. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This Gulf Fritillary caterpillar is really chowing down. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A praying mantis watches a ravenous caterpillar. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
One thing's for certain--a praying mantis does not like to get wet.
If it were human, it would not dip a toe in the water and yell to its friends: "C'mon in, the water's fine!"
Water is not fine--not to a praying mantis.
While watering the tomato plants recently, we discovered a praying mantis beneath the leaves. Looking quite defensive, it emerged from its hiding place, not to prey but to check out the spray.
Then it quietly slipped back beneath the leaves, its long khaki-colored body looking quite conspicuous against a solid green background.
P. Mantis took a few minutes to remove the water droplets and then clumsily flew away.
Enough of that water bath!
Praying mantis, accidentally splashed with a water, tries to remove the droplets. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Drenched praying mantis raises a foreleg. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Oh, the life of a praying mantis...
You can hang upside down like an acrobat, shading yourself from the sun while waiting for prey and avoiding predators. You can crawl beneath dense leaves, the better to ambush, snatch and eat an unsuspecting bee. And you can mate with a fine-looking specimen like yourself and produce some more fine-looking specimens.
Life doesn't get any better than this if you're a praying mantis. (Unless, of course, you're a male mantid and the female practices sexual cannibalism. Or, if you're a newly emerged offspring and your brothers and sisters are feasting on one another and then...eyeing you.)
Finding praying mantids is not so easy. Sometimes the slightest movement in the leaves will reveal their location. Sometimes when you water a plant, they'll emerge, looking quite irritated--if mantids can look irritated. Other times they're blatantly perched on top of a blossom or lurking beneath it.
Up until recently, we'd never actually seen them mating. But there they were that warm midsummer day on Sept. 17 in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven doing just that. See, the praying mantids like to hang out in the bee garden because that's where the bees are. The half-acre garden is located next to bee research hives at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis.
Ah, we thought, a "lover-ly" photo to add to the educational collection of Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis.
So, we took a few photos, being careful not to interrupt them.
If this were a documentary being filmed about the birds 'n the bees, can't you just hear it? The Cole Porter hit, "Let's Do It," softly playing in the background:
...And that's why birds do it
Bees do it
Even educated fleas do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love.
All the while, the Cleveland or blue sage (Clevelandi salvia) stirs with life. A hummingbird, honey bees and carpenter bees drop down to investigate the blossoms and sip a little nectar. A garden spider patrols its sticky web. A scared lizard darts into the shadows.
Ants lumber by with their heavy loads. No sign of any "educated fleas," though.
Praying mantis hangs upside down on a zinnia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Praying mantis eating a bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Mating pair of praying mantids. The green one (left) is the male. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Some folks enjoy a doughnut, bagel, muffin or fruit for breakfast--and maybe some cream cheese on the bagel and honey on the muffin.
Not so the praying mantis.
If he were in a restaurant, he'd tell the waiter "I'd like a bee for breakfast, please."
Or maybe he would leave off the "please" and tell the waiter "Hurry, I'm hungry. Move it, will ya?"
A bee for breakfast is not only perfectly fine for him, but also a bee for lunch, and a bee for dinner.
This young bee (below) was nectaring some salvia (sage) near the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, University of California, Davis, when a cunning praying mantis, lying in wait, nailed her. He grabbed her in his spiked forelegs and swoosh, it was all over. No more buzzing around the salvia. No more sipping the sweet nectar. No more sharing with her colony back at the hive.
Every time this happens--when a mantid nails a honey bee--I want to say outloud: "Why don't you go after a fly? Or a spotted cucumber beetle? Or an aphid?"
Indeed, dear mantid, why not have a nutritious fly for breakfast and a colorful spotted cucumber beetle for lunch? And maybe a succulent aphid for dinner?
Alas, you cannot tell a mantid what to stalk and what to eat.
It was bee for breakfast.
Praying mantis lops off the head of a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Praying mantid polishing off the bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Ever seen a pregnant praying mantis?
Someone on wikianswers.com asked the question: "What does a pregnant praying mantis look like?"
The question drew only one response: "Big and fat."
Well, at least the answer wasn't "Big, old and fat!"
Praying mantids, known as ambush predators because they lie in wait for their prey, nail unsuspecting honey bees, sweat bees, flies, butterflies and assorted other insects. The female mantids, in particular, gorge as they prepare their bodies for egg laying.
Later this year or next spring, if you're lucky, you'll see an egg case hanging from a twig, leaf or fence. Depending on the species, each case contains about 100 to 200 mantises. When they emerge, they're so hungry that they'll eat one another. Brother and sister. Sister and brother. Cannibalism.
This morning this quite pregnant--and quite irritated--"lady in waiting" emerged from the shadows of a salvia at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis.
On a human hand, she appeared perfectly camouflaged.
Then, she climbed off and disappeared back into the salvia.
Pregnant praying mantis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bulging abdomen of a praying mantis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Egg case of a praying mantis. This photo was taken April 18, 2012 at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)