Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Love Story....

This post is rated PG.

My last post showed a Carolina Mantid, Stagmomantis carolina, caught in a Garden Spider's web. I was a little sad, because Carolina Mantids are a native species and are somewhat on the decline.

Recently, my friend John Howard had a few Carolina Mantids pay him a visit. He decided to play match-maker and buggy sparks ignited. This is a tale of how the love story unfolded...

Here is the our lovely female, Mary the mantid. . She is a beautiful gray phase, with dabbled markings on her body. She blends in nicely with bark and lichens, allowing her to be camoflaged from her prey. Such a delicate little flower. Errr, ummm, well in another mantid's eye, I guess. Mantids are such interesting creatures. They look alien-like and move so methodically and deliberately when they are hunting prey. But don't let them fool you! They can be lightening fast when they are catching their prey or trying to escape a predator.

And here is Max. What a dashing young fellow. Sleek, inquisitive, likes eating things while they are still alive... No, not something you would want to see on a human dating service application!
Yes, if you are not familiar with mantids, they many times will eat their prey while it is still squirming.

John found both these mantids around his deck in his back yard and thought they might enjoy being introduced. He placed them together. Max, meet Mary. Mary meet Max, and please, don't eat him. Many times, the female mantid will eat the male. Nature can be so weird, at times. I am so thankful I am not a bug.

Awww, they are hitting it off so well. Max is giving Mary a big hug. The male is smaller than the female in many species of the bug world. So, Mary is the bigger mantid, and Max is on her back.

And now they are mating. Hopefully, Mary will lay eggs this fall and in the spring out will hatch lots of little Carolina Mantids. The egg cases, or ootheca, of mantids have an odd appearance. They look like a blob of the foam sealant you spray in cracks to prevent drafts.

One of the reasons Carolina Mantids are on the decline is predation and competition from a bigger Mantid called the Chinese Mantid, Tenodera aridifolia. This beast was introduced from China in 1896 to help reduce pest populations. It grows up to five inches long. Chinese Mantids eat anything they can catch, insects, lizards, frogs and even hummingbirds. These pictures are a little gruesome, so don't click on it if you are easily squeamish.

I am glad John was able to help introduce these two "loveinsects" and help them possibly reproduce. Also, I am glad he was able to capture and share the story with us. Thanks, John!

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