Friday, September 5, 2008

The Great Predator

Chinese Mantid

Last summer I noticed it, too--almost as an overnight change.
Dozens of mantids--where yesterday there had been none, hanging in their upside down pose, densely scattered throughout the flower tops.

The larger ones are the most in number here, Chinese Mantids, with only a few of the smaller European Mantids among them. This year, choosing goldenrod as a hunting ground, where their long, slender green and brown-winged bodies blend perfectly with its leaves.

raptorial forelegs

They step forward slowly and deliberately. Then patiently wait, motionless, for unsuspecting prey.

The wide-eyed triangular head is quick to turn in response to the most minor movement. Front legs grasping in a flash that which wanders carelessly too close. Hungrily devouring every morsel, headfirst. Until only a small scrap of a leg remains.

Mantid with prey

Mantid eating

voracious appetite

I kept one in a terrarium on the porch for a few days, bringing her offerings each morning from the plants in the field. My collection of 2 Harvestmen (Daddy Longlegs), 2 Milkweed Bugs, a shield bug, a katydid and a caterpillar was eaten before noon with no complaint. Even while devouring one held in her right foreleg, the left caught a bug and held it tightly in its vise-like grasp. A two-fisted eater!
(Harvestmen are eaten legs first!)

posing before release to field

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Pat - An Arkansas Stamper said...

Yow! Great photos, but I hope I don't find any of these creatures in my yard. That's a pretty good sized critter! Should I ever do so, I think I will leave well enough alone and work elsewhere for a while.

splummer said...

Awesome photos!!!! I have a photo of a mantis in my window. I waited 2 hours for him to move down the window far enough for me to get a fairly good photo..


nina said...

As fearsome as they look, they are "good" for your garden, eating pests that bother your plants.
The chinese mantid was an import for this purpose, now very plentiful (too plentiful?)
We have a native mantid here, too, the carolina--and I've only found one in my entire life. Much smaller and even better camouflaged. Very pretty.
Mantids make nice pets, in fact. They are able to pinch if you try to pick them up, but otherwise they don't bother. I almost wondered if she would take her dinner from my hand!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

What a cute pose of the mantid on the yardstick. Great pictures.

NCmountainwoman said...

Great photos. Brings back memories of keeping mantids in an aquarium when I was a kid. They still fascinate me.

nina said...

Is it the fact that they can turn their heads that makes them appear so intelligent?
I sneak along with my camera until one turns her head and looks at me inquisitively.
I almost feel I should ask if she minds if I take her picture!

bobbie said...

These things have always fascinated me, and your photos are great.

RuthieJ said...

Holy Moly Nina, that's a really huge insect! I'll have to start keeping a watchful eye in my backyard because I'd love to see one of these someday.

scienceguy288 said...

Almost four inches: what a monster! Amazing shots.

Sparverius said...

I love the photos that so wonderfully tell the story. Thanks for sharing these.

Wendy said...

Wonderful pics. I remember when I was a child, my brothers terrified me with stories of "the praying mantis is going to eat you"! It still looks scary today.

NW Nature Nut said...

Your posts are always wonderful. The closeups really do him justice!