Friday, September 25, 2009

Praying Mantis

We had an insect program earlier this week. What a blast! We found all kinds of great bugs. Caterpillars galore, beetles, black-legged meadow katydids, and tons of spiders were found. The most popular find of the day was this little lady-a very pregger praying mantis. If you look at her abdomen, it is very swollen with eggs. I would guess she will be laying her egg mass sometime in the next few days.

When I first picked her up, she tried to nail me. She reared up and threw her front legs toward my hand. If you look at her front legs, she has wicked raptorial spines on her legs. She uses these to reach out with lightening fast quickness and snatch her prey. Then she will squeeze it like a pair of pliers while the spikes impale the hapless victim. She usually eats the critter while it is still alive, struggling to get free. What a way to go! Large Chinese mantids, like this one, can even kill hummingbirds with those spines.

Here is a closeup of the raptorial spines on the legs. If you

are a bug, you are NOT escaping those.

I let her go on my hand and after she realized I wasn't going to eat her, she calmed down and just explored. Such a curious animal! I then let the kids take turns holding her. When I explained what she was doing and how to react to her, they were no longer afraid of her. It was great to see so many of them that had never held a big insect like that, grin with delight. It was great to see them conquer their fear of bugs.

After the program, I snapped some pics of her and set her free behind our building on a False Sunflower. I hope she lays her eggs back there, so I can watch for the little praying mantises this spring!

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magiceye said...

superb macros!

Squirrel said...

Very nice photo. I think it is so cool the way they just turn their heads and look at you right in the eye. Thanks.

Tulip said...

great captured.

my entry:

Joy said...

Gorgeous photography + bravery all in one post! I don't think I would've had the nerve. ;o)

ramblingwoods said...

Amazing photos. I think they are such an arrogant looking insect..if an insect can be considered to be arrogant... lol... Michelle

Anonymous said...

That is so cool. I wish I could have been there to see her in person. I still haven't gotten the nerve to hold my pet mantis yet. I just like watching him look around but I do think its cool to watch him catch the crickets I got him. Its so cool how he strikes out so quickly to catch his prey.

eileeninmd said...

Great capture, thanks for sharing your critter.