A gravid praying mantis, Stagmomantis limbata, crawls out of a patch of African blue basil, and begins checking out the honey bees.
Decisions. Decisions. Dozens of them are buzzing around, gathering nectar for their colony. They are not aware she is there.
Finally, the mantis, her abdomen bulging with a future ootheca, spots a bee just above her head.
She knows the ambush move well. Soon spiked forelegs grip the bee, her dinner.
It was a good day for a praying mantis. It was not a good day for a bee.
If you're a praying mantis, it's important to start the day out right by meditating, praying, and exercising.
Close your eyes and slow your breathing. Be grateful for what you have, not what you want. But it's permissible to dream big, as in a Megachile pluto instead of a Perdita minima.
Begin with the cat-camel stretch; just call it the Apis mellifera or honey bee stretch. It's great to limber up the head, thorax and abdomen and tone your muscles. You don't want to get arthritis, do you? No, didn't think so.
No treadmlll? Try balance training. Just hang upside down on that Cosmos plant and then turn parallel as if you're on the parallel bars and then flip upright. It keeps your blood flowing and your heart pumping. Repetition is good. It's all good. Do it again!
Then try some strength building with leg squats and bicep curls with those those spiked forelegs. Make sure your coxa, trochanter, femur, tibia and tarsa are flexible. They're all in this together!
Lunges? Of course! You must strengthen, sculpt, and tone your body for overall fitness. Get your head and body in position. Leap forward as if you see a bumble bee. Push-ups are good, too, as are squats, jumping jacks, eye-rolling and antennae-twitching. Also suitable for courting.
Reach-ups for upper-body strength? Definitely. Lean on that Cosmos stem for support and stretch those spiked forelegs. That's a good way to kick-start your day and tackle all your projects.
And maybe, just maybe, you'll see breakfast coming your way before you're finished with your daily morning exercise. Your prayers will be answered.
As your mama said, "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day."
Mama also told you--remember this? "Carpe diem, seize the day!"
Heads will not roll.
The Hunger Games will not begin.
Preying does not always work.
It's Aug. 2, 2020 and a praying mantis decides to occupy a specially stunning Mexican sunflower. Specifically, it's a female Stagmomantis limbata occupying a Tithonia rotundifolia.
It's a brilliant day, the kind of day that makes you love the world and everything in it. You know those kinds of days? No? Thought not. Me, neither.
A honey bee, Apis mellifera, lands on the Orange Blossom Special—no connection to the deluxe-passenger train that Johnny Cash made famous, the train that links New York City to Miami.
Ah, but it's a brilliant day, yes, indeed.
Ms. Honey Bee begins sipping nectar to share with her colony.
Ms. Mantis has no intention of sharing anything.
Ms. Mantis: “Well, hello there, Ms. Honey Bee! You are looking quite delicious today!”
Ms. Honey Bee: “Excuse me? Oh, yes, this nectar is delicious. Try some!”
Ms. Mantis: “No, thanks, I am a carnivore.”
Ms. Honey Bee: “Well, I'm a vegetarian!”
Ms. Mantis: “Well, I can bite your head off.”
Ms. Honey Bee: “That would not be a nice thing to do. Where are your manners?”
Ms. Mantis: “Manners? Do you think I'm Ms. Manners? I'm Ms. Mantis not Ms. Manners.”
Ms. Honey Bee: “Well, just telling you that I'm a vegetarian.”
Ms. Mantis: “I eat vegetarians.”
Ms. Honey Bee: "Not today!" Abruptly, she takes flight, buzzing off faster than Johnny Cash can mimic the "choo choo" of the Orange Blossom Special.
Conclusions? There are three:
- Heads do not always roll when a flower is double-occupied by a praying mantis and a honey bee.
- The Hunger Games do not always begin.
- Preying does not always work.
(Editor's Note: No organisms were injured in the making of these photographs. The mantis wanted to, though!)
What's for dinner?
If you're a praying mantis nymph, Stagmomantis limbata, perched on a sunflower, sometimes it can be a long wait. Breakfast fades into lunch, lunch fades into dinner...
First you scout out your territory and spread out (hey, look at me)!. Then you lurk in the shadows (don't look at me; I am not here)!
Where, oh, where is the prey?
And then it happens. Drama on a sunflower blossom.
This little nymph managed to snag what appeared to be a green bottle fly, or that's what it looked like at the onset. Toward the end it was as unrecognizable as whirled black-eyed peas and pureed ham hocks.
A fly might not be as tasty as a honey bee or a longhorned bee, but dinner is served. Bon Appétit!
When we last left Ms. Mantis, a female Stagmomantis limbata residing in our verbena patch, she was munching on a honey bee.
A successful ambush stalker, she was.
But not always.
Her plan to take down a duskywing butterfly, genus Erynnis, didn't go so well.
The butterfly, foraging on the blossoms, touches down near the predator, unaware of the trouble that could lie ahead.
The predator and the prey. The skillful hunter and the unsuspecting prey. Ms. Mantis is poised, ready to strike. The butterfly flutters away in the nick of time.
It will live to forage another day.
The mantis? It will live to hunt another day.