Friday, October 1, 2010

Pray or Prey

I honestly thought that these little guys were called preying mantises, rather than praying mantids. I figured that yes, they look like they are praying, but had always heard that they are fierce predators, and thus the "preying" part had stuck in my mind. It's so humbling to grow old and find how wrong you've always been!

His back looked just like a leaf, giving him maximum camouflage except, of course, when perched on a piece of wood on top of the trash barrel. 

The large head of this guy turned as I moved around him with my camera. It seems that the head is on an elongated part of the thorax that looks like a neck and allows the head to turn as much as 180 degrees. 

On the University of Arizona Center for Insect Science Education Outreach website, I found this information about "interesting behaviors" (I'll say!) of the praying mantid: 

The adult female usually eats the male after or during mating. [A] mantid's grasping response is incredibly rapid, so that you see it before it catches the insect and when the insect is in its front legs. The motion is barely a blur if it is perceived at all.
The compound eyes are capable of seeing images and colors. The three simple eyes perhaps tell the differences between light and dark. The simple eyes are arranged in a triangle between the antennae. Compound eyes are made up of hundreds of facets constructed with two lenses. These focus the light down a light sensitive structures (rhabdome) which is connected to the optic nerve.

I checked on him some time after our photo op and found him in the same place. Given the number of predators wandering around the area (cats, dogs, birds), I gave him a ride to the far side of the fence, where he commenced to pray and prey once again. 


becky said...

I always though they were "praying mantis!" The are interesting, but in a sort of creepy way. I remember when I was a kid, and I found a HUGE (well it seemed so 'cause I was little) one & it did kinda freak me out how it's head kept following me as I examined it.
I didn't know they ate their mate... doesn't the black widow do that too? Nice photos

Owlfarmer said...

I do love patient insects. Now that the weather has cooled down some of my favorites (like the cicadas) will begin their migration/hibernation/etc. process and I'll miss them. I love your mantid, though. I didn't see any this year, but may not have been looking properly. I kept trying to get a dragon fly to settle down long enough for a good shot, to no avail.

Martha Z said...

I agree, both spellings are appropriate for this critter. They are interesting to watch and I like having them in my garden as I do not use pesticides.

JC said...

I have never seen one of those ... ok, at a kids museum but not in my yard.

Dave said...

beautiful images of a wonderful creature.

Tommy Andre Nekkoy said...

What a nice green fellow

Linda said...

I think I would freak out if I found this on top of our rubbish bin, but then perhaps you are more alert to the possibility of such beasties.

charlotte g said...

Well, I was half between. I've always called them praying mantises. I love them and treat them gently. They, and ladybugs, are great assists to gardening organically. For years I had a black widow spider in the corner of my garden that I never disturbed because she always stayed on her web and ate so many bugs I DIDN'T want. Her egg would hatch each year, and the babies would launch themselves on a wisp of web, but somehow, one daughter always stayed for the next year.
And boy, your photos are good.

clairz said...

Charlotte, having grown up with the book, Charlotte's Web, now I'll always think of you when I hear about black widow spider's!