Quick! Find the damselfly!
This damselfly (below) is so camouflaged that it's difficult to see her.
Her? She's a female Argia vivida, as identified by Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis; and dragonfly/damselfly/butterfly aficionado Greg Kareofelas, a volunteer at the Bohart Museum.
The males are a bright blue.
We didn't see both genders, though, when we were looking for damselflies in a bed of Spanish lavender last weekend in Benicia.
Argia "is a genus of damselflies of the family Coenagrionidae and of the subfamily Argiinae," according to Wikipedia. "It is a diverse genus which contains about 114 species and many more to be described. It is also the largest genus in Argiinae. They are found in the Western Hemisphere."
Like their cousins, the dragonflies, they're predators that eat other insects.
Argia vivida are known as "dancers" because of "the distinctive jerky form of flight they use which contrasts with the straightforward direct flight of bluets, forktails and other pond damselflies," according to Wikipedia. "They are usually to be seen in the open where they catch flying insects on the wing rather than flying about among vegetation picking off sedentary prey items. They tend to land and perch flat on the ground, logs and rocks. When perched, they usually hold their wing slightly raised above the abdomen."
That's what this one was doing./span>/span>
What a perfect camouflage!
Have you ever seen a green praying mantis hiding among the green growth in your garden?
Concealed. Disguised. Camouflaged.
The praying mantis is a patient insect. It will lurk for hours in its familiar prayer-like position, ready to ambush passing prey, usually an unsuspecting insect like a honey bee, bumble bee, sweat bee or grasshopper. Then with a movement faster than you can say "What the..." it will strike, grabbing its prey with its spiked forelegs. The target, unable to escape the deadly grip, becomes its meal. No catch and release here!
There's a reason why many folks have never seen a praying mantis. It's like trying to find Waldo, especially when the mantis is camouflaged in the vegetation and lying motionless.
Wikipedia tell us that the mantids, in the order Mantodea, comprise more than 2400 species and about 430 genera in 15 families worldwide. Some 20 species occur in North America, according to entomologist Gilbert Waldbauer of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Author of The Handy Bug Answer Book, Waldbauer writes that the introduced Chinese mantis is the largest "at a length of asmuch as four inches."
The praying mantis isn't at all concerned about culinary choices.
It doesn't worry about who's coming to dinner, only that dinner will come.
This aggressive, predatory insect will eat just about anything it can get its claws on, entomologists agree. That includes bees, butterflies, grasshoppers, crickets, moths and flies. It's even been known to catch and feast on small frogs, birds, lizards, mice and snakes--not to mention its own species. During or after mating, the female often bites off her lover's head and eats him. Sexual cannabalism!
The praying mantis (insect order Mantodea) is difficult to spot. It's camouflaged brown, green or yellow to match its surroundings. You may see it on tree bark, foliage, fallen leaves, sticks 'n stones, blades of grass and flowers. A master of ambush, it perches stealthily, its front legs in a "praying position," as it patiently awaits the first course. Then whoosh! It lashes out and grasps its victim with its spiked forelegs. The ending is not pleasant.
Just be glad that the praying mantis is not human-sized.