- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
If you're trying to find a praying mantis in the wild, go where the food source is.
Sounds pretty easy, right? But oh, they're camouflaged. They lie in wait, as ambush predators, and strike. Now you see the predator, now you don't. Where did it go?
"Observations of most species tend to peak in late summer and early fall, when individuals are at full size and seeking mates. Only the egg cases survive winter."--Field Guide to California Insects, second edition, authored by Kip Will, Joyce Gross, Daniel Rubinoff and Jerry Powell.
Lately we've been looking for what UC Davis alumnus and praying mantis expert Lohit Garikipati, now a master's student at Towson (Maryland) University, identified as a "male subadult Stagmomantis limbata" in our African blue basil.
We saw Mr. Mantis for a few days in the basil, and then he disappeared. Vanished. Gone. Evaporated. Maybe he lost his head to the current resident? That would be a subadult female Stagmomantis limbata, according to praying mantis expert Lohit Garikipati, a UC Davis alumnus studying for his master's degree at Towson (Maryland) University.
We saw the female today, tucked beneath a basil leaf, with only her head and feet showing. I
In their book, California Bees and Blooms: a Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists, UC authors Gordon Frankie, UC Berkeley professor, the late Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, and Rollin Coville and Barbara Ertter, also affiliated with UC Berkeley, recommend that pollinator gardens include African blue basil, Ocimum kilimandscharicum × basilicum 'Dark Opal.'
Plant basil and the bees will come.
So will praying mantids. They are opportunistic predators who polish off both pests and pollinators.
All are welcome in our pollinator garden. All.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Step into your garden, walk over to a community park, or hike in the wilderness and see what's out there.
And take along the newly published, newly revised "The Field Guide to California Insects."
It includes more than 600 insect species. Not sure what species of butterfly that is? Want to know if that's a Valley carpenter bee? What's that species of praying mantis you just found? Take a look at the text and photos. Chances are you'll find them in this handy book.
It's a California Natural History Guide and published by the University of California Press. If you're into entomology, you'll probably recognize the names of the four authors:
- Kip Will, entomologist, insect systematist, and former director of the Essig Museum of Entomology at UC Berkeley
- Joyce Gross, noted insect photographer (she works as a computer programmer with the Berkeley Natural History Museums at UC Berkeley)
- Dan Rubinoff, who grew up chasing insects in California and is now a professor of entomology and director of the University of Hawaii Insect Museum
- Jerry Powell, emeritus professor, UC Berkeley, and former director of the Essig Museum of Entomology
We remember reading the first edition, California Insects, published in September 1980 and authored by Professor Powell and (the late) Charles Hogue.
So this revision is 40 years in the making.
It's billed as the only California-specific, statewide book devoted to all groups of insects:
"Engaging accounts focus on distinguishing features, remarkable aspects of biology, and geographical distribution in the state. An accessible and compact introduction to identifying, understanding, and appreciating these often unfamiliar and fascinating creatures, this guide covers insects that readers are likely to encounter in homes and natural areas, cities and suburbs, rural lands and wilderness. It also addresses exotic and invasive species and their impact on native plants and animals. Field Guide to California Insects remains the definitive portable reference and a captivating read for beginners as well as avid naturalists."
The authors point out that worldwide, there are only a million described insects, and that's "more than five times the number of all animals combined." They also note that "estimates of the number remaining to be described and named vary between three million to 30 million or more."
Thirty million! Can you imagine?
The authors define what makes an insect, expanding on growth and reproduction, breathing and circulation, feeding and stinging. They write about the distribution and diversity of the California insect fauna; how insects are classified, and even how to make an insect collection, something most high schoolers will be asked to do.
The book offers you information on dragonflies and damselflies, mantises, stick insects, beetles, fleas, flies, mosquitoes, earwigs, moths and butterflies, and booklice--and more.
It's a fantastic book--well-researched, well-written, well-illustrated, and an opportunity for you to become not a Big Game Hunter, but a Little Game Hunter.
By the end of the book, you may even decide to study entomology. (And there's plenty of opportunities in California, including at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology)
You may also want to become an insect photographer: plant a pollinator garden and they will come. Below are some of the backyard or household images you can capture.