Find the praying mantis.
That's not too difficult, considering this Stagmomantis limbata is gravid (pregnant) and about ready to deposit her ootheca (egg case or "ooth") on a nearby twig or branch.
Sandwiched herself between African blue basil and Salvia “hot lips"--where the bees are--she found easy pickings.
According to Bugguide.net: "Females most often fairly plain green (often yellowish abdomen), but sometimes gray, or light brown, with dark spot in middle of tegmina. Tegmina do not completely cover wide abdomen. Hind wings checkered or striped yellow. Blue upper lip more pronounced in females, brighter in green forms and darker in brown forms."
A day after this image was taken, the mantis vanished.
Ooh, there's an ooth out there somewhere.
You've probably read the children's book, "Where's Waldo?"
Waldo wanders around the world, gets lost in the crowd or scenery, and it's your job to find him. Where'd he go?
If you have a praying mantis in your yard, you probably play "Where's Waldo?" a lot.
In our yard, it's "Walda." She's a gravid (pregnant) praying mantis and she never stays in one spot for long.
Camouflaged in the bushes, motionless, and deep in "prayer," she's a lost cause.
And then you see where she is. The Stagmomantis limbata. The bushes stir, and the next thing you know, she's gripping a bee in her spiked forelegs.
Right there. Right there.
Interviewer: "Hey, Gulf Fritillary! What happened to you? Something take a chunk out of your wings?"
Miss Gulf Frit: "I dunno. I was just fluttering around the passionflower vine and something grabbed me."
Interviewer: "Do you have any idea what happened?"
Miss Gulf Frit: "Sorry, no. It happened so fast but I managed to escape. A miss is as good as a mile, right?
Interviewer (turning to praying mantis): "Ms. Mantis, do you have any idea what happened here?"
Ms. Mantis: "What? You talking to me? You talking to me?"
Interviewer: "Yes, you're the only other one in the passionflower patch."
Ms. Mantis (smiling): "It wasn't me, y'hear. It wasn't me! Okay, well, maybe it was me. I was hungry. I'm still hungry. I missed!"
Interviewer: "Well, a miss is as good as a smile."
Oh, to be a praying mantis, and hide among the flowers waiting for prey.
On a warm sunny morning in Vacaville, Calif., this female Stagmomantis limbata positioned herself in a patch of Mexican sunflowers, Tithonia rotundifola.
She lurked beneath a blossom, camouflaged with the green leaves and stems. She groomed herself. It's important to wash up before breakfast and be presentable at the breakfast table and say your prayers.
Then she spotted a honey bee.
Ms. Mantis climbed the stem and peered over the orange petals.
What happened next? Spoiler alert, no breakfast for Ms. Mantis.
Later, though, another mantis hanging out in a nearby rosebush snagged and ate a small fly and a slow milkweed bug. Satiated, she crawled beneath a leaf, perhaps to digest her breakfast and sleep. You could say she "rose" to the occasion, or you could just say she was hungry.
Our showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) is putting on a show.
The towering plant--a good eight feet--anchors the garden as we patiently wait for monarch butterflies to arrive and lay their eggs.
It's mid-August and it appears the monarchs are not coming here to our little pollinator garden in Vacaville, Calif. Maybe we'll see some during their late summer or early fall migration--on their way to their overwintering sites along coastal California.
Meanwhile, the speciosa has more than its share of lady beetles (aka ladybugs) and aphids.
But now we have a new visitor, well, maybe a permanent resident.
A praying mantis, Stagmomantis limbata (as confirmed by mantis expert Lohit Garikipati, a UC Davis graduate and Bohart Museum of Entomology associate now attending graduate school in Towson University, Maryland) has arrived.
For the first several days, Ms. Mantis hung upside down and did not eat (at least in our presence). She watched the bees buzzing around but made no effort to snag one. We think she was yawning. "Okay, I know you're there. I don't care and I'm not hungry."
Then we found her exoskeleton on one of the speciosa leaves.
A mantid's "skeleton," you know, is outside its body and it's known as an "exoskeleton." It reminds us of a suit of armor, for protection, support and form (is it a "suite of amour" when love abounds?).
A young mantis eats and outgrows its exoskeleton and then it molts (sheds it). Scientists say some species of growing mantids may lose their exoskeletons as many as 10 times.
And, according to Garikipati, a mantis that has just molted may not eat for two or three days.
Did you hear that, bees?
So, bottom line, no monarchs on the milkweed.
But we do have assorted lady beetles, aphids, and one praying mantis and her exoskeleton.
Wait, correct that. Just one mantis. A breeze just swept away the exoskeleton.