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Monday, September 16, 2013

Fluttering down the road

So I was walking along the side of Westshore Road on Sunday when a large pale green insect came flying or fluttering down the middle of the road at about eye level.  My brow furrowed in puzzlement, but luckily the insect veered and landed in the vegetation a few feet in front of me.

I'm trying to remember back over the past 9 years, but I think this is the first praying mantis I've seen on Bodega Head.  I have a vague memory of talking about them and their status in California, but I can't recall observing one locally.  Has anyone else seen them on Bodega Head?  I'm wondering how common (or uncommon) they are here.

It sounds like there are a few species of mantids in California, so I'm not sure yet which species this is, but I'll ask around to try to find out.

There's an interesting thing going on in these pictures.  Did you notice that one antenna is bent over in a loop (see above, and close-up below)?

I'm wondering if the mantis is cleaning its antenna by drawing it through its mouthparts.  Or do you have other ideas about what's happening?

Here's another view:

Let me know if you have other local praying mantis stories!

P.S.  Annie Dillard writes about watching praying mantis in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, one of my early inspirations in making natural history observations.


David A. Hofmann said...

Hi Jackie,
I believe that this is Mantis religiosa or European Mantid. The forelegs have a black ringed spot at their base. Which you can see in two of your photos. In "National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America" by Arthur V. Evans 2007.

Anonymous said...

4 mantis in my garden this past week !!! Now I am wondering about their life cycle ???

Jackie Sones said...

In response to the 2nd comment (which I think came from the East Coast?): If I remember right, the females lay their distinctive egg masses in the late summer/fall and the egg masses overwinter. The tiny mantises hatch out in the spring and it takes the whole summer for them to grow to adult size. But I'm not sure if this life cycle holds true for all mantis species in all places, so I need to do more research!