- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
If you've ever looked at a “Where's Waldo” pictorial book and tried to spot a cartoon-like character wearing a red-and-white striped shirt, a bobbie hat, and glasses, you know it's not that easy. Many look-alikes or red herrings populate each page.
Such is the case when you're trying to find a camouflaged green praying mantis in green vegetation.
Where's Waldo? Or, where's Walda?
Our narrow-leafed milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis, is blooming well. A lone male leafcutter bee likes to hang out there, patrolling for females. And the oleander aphids like to hang out on the stems, sucking the plant juices.
Where are the monarchs, you ask?
They are not there. But something else is.
A green praying mantis, probably a female Stagmomantis limbata, emerges amid the green stems, seed pods and leaves, and crawls toward clusters of lavender-white flowers.
Meet Walda, a master of disguise, stealth and ambush.
And she is hungry.
She's looking at you. You're looking at her. It's a standoff as she “prays” for prey.
A bee touches down on the flowers. A leafcutter circles. A Gulf Fritillary glides by.
And Walda? She isn't much of a hunter today.