Posts Tagged: praying mantis
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)
The photo just begs for a caption.
The praying mantis, with a female sweat bee grasped in its spiked forelegs, suddenly turns its head to look at the photographer.
Actually, three photographers: Davis insect photographers/bee enthusiasts Allan Jones and Gary Zamzow and I. We were shooting images in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, the half-acre bee friendly garden located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis.
Jones, admiring the first image (below), commented "I love the way the mantis has set breakfast aside to stare directly at you." With that, Jones served up three captions:
"Oh, is that your bee?"
"What are you looking at?"
"Threat or prey?"
Meanwhile, we were obviously interrupting the praying mantid's bee breakfast.
"The female sweat bee is carrying some pollen she toiled to provide for her young," said native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at the UC Davis Department of Entomology. "The mantid is also ducking under a spider webline, and needs to be careful that it does not become the meal of another sit and wait predator. It's a real jungle out there!"
Thorp, who has been monitoring the garden since October 2009, a year before it was planted, has so far discovered 75 different species of bees--and counting.
Yes, sometimes amid the predators and the prey, it's definitely a "real jungle out there."
What are you looking at? A praying mantis, with a female sweat bee grasped in its spiked forelegs, looks at the camera. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Praying mantis continues to eat the sweat bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The drama unfolds slowly.
The crafty praying mantis that's perched atop a zinnia raises its spiked, grasping forelegs and silently waits for unsuspecting prey.
A sweat bee cruises by. Then a second one. Then a third.
They do not land and the praying mantis does not move.
Is it possible for an insect to be as still as a statue? It is. Praying mantids can lie in wait for hours. When their prey comes near, they lash out and grab it, holding it in their spiked forelegs while they eat it alive.
Meanwhile, this praying mantis in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre pollinator garden on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis, doesn't have long to wait. A honey bee lands on the predator's perch.
A predator. A prey. A pollinator garden.
The bee crawls slowly along the blossoms and is just about to forage when it spots the predator.
In a flurry of wings and legs, almost faster than a 1/640th-of-a-second shutter speed, the praying mantis lunges. Nothing but air! The bee escapes (probably in a "shudder" speed) and buzzes away.
This meal was not to bee.
Unsuspecting honey bee lands on a zinnia occupied by a praying mantis lying in wait. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee crawls toward the center of the zinnia, unaware of the predator. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The honey bee sinks down into the zinnia and is about to forage, as the mantid lies perfectly still. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Danger! The praying mantis strikes. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A near miss! The honey bee escapes and buzzes off. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)