Posts Tagged: praying mantis
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)
It was a good day to be a praying mantis. It was not a good day to be a honey bee.
Just before noon today, we watched a green praying mantis lurking in the African blue basil, like a camouflaged soldier ready to ambush the enemy. His eyes remain focused on a single honey bee gathering nectar for her colony. She is moving slowly but methodically, buzzing from one blossom to another.
The predator and the prey. An epic battle. A battle that's been waging for millions of years.
The honey bee keeps nectaring. The praying mantis keeps watching. He is not admiring her nectaring skills. He is seeking a bee breakfast like the one he had yesterday.
Suddenly, with one swift leap, the praying mantis snares and traps the honey bee in his spiked forelegs. The bee struggles to escape but the mantis tightens his grip with his needlelike vise.
The bee will not be returning to her hive tonight.
Wait...what's this...a dive-bombing attack?
It is. A male leafcutter bee is dive-bombing the predator. Is he trying to protect his cousin, the honey bee, or just being territorial? At any rate, he is a double blur as he dive-bombs from above, targeting the predator and then pulling up to do it again. Five passes. Some near misses, some near body slams. Some passes are so close that their antennae touch.
The praying mantis glances at the leafcutter bee and continues eating, somewhat like the Carl Jr. commercial, "Don't bother me, I'm eating."
"I'm eating and you're next."
A praying mantis snares a honey bee. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The leafcutter bee targets the praying mantis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The leafcutter bee nearly slams into the mantis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The praying mantis keeps eating. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The praying mantis polishes off the last morsel. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)