- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Have you ever seen a green-legged praying mantis on a green leaf?
Praying mantis expert Lohitashwa "Lohit" Garikipati, identified this species as a subadult male, Stagmomantis limbata, perched in a patch of African blue basil in our family's pollinator garden. When the temperature soared to 105 degrees, Mr. Mantis escaped the heat by slipping beneath the leaf. Mantids are not only great ambush predators but they know how to keep cool!
But the green legs?
We asked Garikipati, a UC Davis entomology graduate now studying for his master's degree with biologist Christopher Oufiero, an associate professor at Towson University, Towson, MD. While a UC Davis student, he showed mantids at the Bohart Museum of Entomology open houses.
"Your observation is interesting and it's a rather interesting phenomenon tha'ts often noticed by mantis researchers observing wild specimens," Garikipati said. "I've found numerous individuals on foliage that is more or less the same color as they are--they could easily choose to sit somewhere else, yet they choose to sit on that particular color of foliage. How much of this is color matching is hard to say--some species can alter their coloration within an instar, others take multiple molts to do so."
Through his personal observations in rearing S. limbata, Garikipati said "they only seem to be able to drastically change over multiple instars. It's possible that this individual has lived on that plant for a period of time. Even if that is the case, its absolutely incredible that they are able to color match to their surroundings--how the mechanism works I have no idea. Probably unsurprisingly, they are much more complex than we ever give them credit for."
Epilogue: As bees buzzed over and around his head, Mr. Mantis never resorted to "Green Legs and Bam!" (See YouTube video and hear the bees buzzing)
Me thinks Mr. Mantis wasn't all that hungry or maybe he was just too heat-tired to reach out and nab a bee with his spiked forelegs.