Posts Tagged: praying mantis
Here's a "cold case" to investigate.
Check your backyard or neighborhood park and see if a praying mantis has deposited an egg case on a tree limb, plant or fence.
Case in point: Over at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, west of the UC Davis campus, a frequently watered potted plant attracts scores of honey bees seeking water to deliver to their hives.
It also has attracted a cunning praying mantis.
She just deposited an egg case on one of the stems, knowing that when her offspring emerge next spring there will be plenty of food for them.Praying mantises (Tenodera sinensis) are fierce-looking, combative insects with voracious appetites. They'll eat any insect they can catch and overcome. And not just insects: they've been known to attack and kill everything from hummingbirds to mice.
Call it a banty-rooster complex; nothing seems to frighten the pugnacious praying mantis.
About this time of year, the praying mantis deposits her eggs on a twig or stem or fence. The frothy secretion hardens into a shell to protect it from the elements and from predators.
Fast-forward to spring or nearly spring. When the weather warms, so will the cold case, and about 100 to 200 tiny mantises will emerge.
They'll be so hungry they'll even eat one another.
Can't find an egg case? Not to worry. Early next year, your local hardware store or nursery will probably have them--in the refrigerated section.
The praying mantis glared at me.
It was not afraid of me, my camera, or my jockeying around to get a better position.
When I captured the image (below) last fall in a neighbor's garden, I decided that in 2009, I would get my very own praying mantis.
Or maybe dozens of them.
Praying mantises, you see, help control aphids, thrips, flies, whiteflies, mosquitoes, and grubs. They also make great portraits.
So, how do you get your very own praying mantis? You can order egg cases online (just Google "praying mantis egg cases") or buy them at a local nursery. Also, you can usually find them in the gardening section of your favorite hardware store.
You'll get a finely meshed net bag. You hang it in a tree or bush by threading a small branch through the mesh or by nailing the bag to the branch. The eggs will hatch three weeks after temperatures reach 70 degrees. The tiny mantises will exit through the holes and scatter into the nearby foliage.
We purchased our bag (well, two bags) today in the gardening section of Home Depot. The egg cases are refrigerated to avoid unwanted hatching in the store. Each bag contains one egg case, and each egg case will yield about 200 mantises, the instruction indicate. The insects will mature in 4 to 6 months. The female will deposit from one to 5 egg cases before winter. With the first freeze, the adults die. The egg cases hatch in the spring.
Then the cycle begins again.
Now, we wait. Soon, with any luck, we'll have scores of praying mantises.
Life is good!
It's in the Bag
For my New Year's resolution, I resolve to turn over a new leaf.
Oh, sure, most folks resolve to eat less, exercise more, drink less, read more, stress less, save more, gripe less, and volunteer more.
I'm turning over a new leaf.
You never know what kind of insect you'll find there or what kind of insect will "pose" for you.
Happy New Year! (And may one of your resolutions involve "turning over a new leaf.")
The praying mantis isn't at all concerned about culinary choices.
It doesn't worry about who's coming to dinner, only that dinner will come.
This aggressive, predatory insect will eat just about anything it can get its claws on, entomologists agree. That includes bees, butterflies, grasshoppers, crickets, moths and flies. It's even been known to catch and feast on small frogs, birds, lizards, mice and snakes--not to mention its own species. During or after mating, the female often bites off her lover's head and eats him. Sexual cannabalism!
The praying mantis (insect order Mantodea) is difficult to spot. It's camouflaged brown, green or yellow to match its surroundings. You may see it on tree bark, foliage, fallen leaves, sticks 'n stones, blades of grass and flowers. A master of ambush, it perches stealthily, its front legs in a "praying position," as it patiently awaits the first course. Then whoosh! It lashes out and grasps its victim with its spiked forelegs. The ending is not pleasant.
Just be glad that the praying mantis is not human-sized.
Waiting for dinner
Robert Bugg saw it first.
That’s entomologist Robert L. Bugg.
Bugg, who received his doctorate in entomology at UC Davis, does research on the biological control of insect pests; cover crops; and restoration ecology.
And he saw it first.
“Look,” he said. “That praying mantis just bit the head off a pipevine swallowtail butterfly.”
We were part of a field tour, “Yolo County Field Tour of Native Bee Habitat on Working Lands.” Held Wednesday, Aug. 27 and organized by the Native Pollinators in Agriculture Project, the field tour drew representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, California Department of Agriculture, California EPA, and farmers from throughout the country.
We visited seven sites: The Farm on Putah Creek, Butler Farm, Good Humus Farm, Cache Creek Conservancy, Muller Farms, Hedegrow Farms, and the Pioneer Hybrid Seed Farm.
I brought along my camera and a macro lens to capture photos of native pollinators, such as long-horned bees, sunflower bees, sweat bees and bumblebees.
We saw the green praying mantis, disguised as a flower stem or blade of grass, at The Farm on Putah Creek.
It had just snared a pipevine swallowtail butterfly (Battus philenor).
It was survival of the fittest, and the matnis was more than fit. Now he was enjoying a morning meal at the expense of a fluttering butterfly.
The praying mantis (sometimes called a "preying matnis") is an ambush predator. It lies in wait for unsuspecting dinner to arrive.
Mr. Mantis grasped the butterfly in his spiked forelegs and chewed off the head.
It was a good day for a praying mantis, a bad day for a butterfly.
Praying mantis nails pipevine swallowtail butterfly