Water a bush or a plant frequently visited by bees and other pollinators, and if they're in there, they're likely to emerge.
Such was the case when a male praying mantis, Mantis religiosa, emerged from our pomegranate bush. No spray zone, please.
Frankly, he looked a bit irritated.
The next week a female M. religiosa emerged from a plant in our neighbor's yard. She, too, looked a bit irritated.
Praying mantis expert, Lohit Garikpati, a UC Davis entomology student who rears mantids and volunteers at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, confirmed their identities and gender.
The European mantis, or Mantis religiosa, belongs to the family Mantidae ("mantids"), the largest family in the order Mantodea. As all insect enthusiasts know, they derive their common name by their distinctive posture of "praying." (Some entomologists like to think of them as "preying" mantids.)
The females are usually larger and heavier but the antennae and eyes of the males outsize the females.
"Along with the forward directed compound eyes there are also simple eyes to be found on the head," Wikipedia tells us. "These three dorsal ocelli are also more pronounced in males than in females.Male individuals are often found to be more active and agile whereas females are physically more powerful. One of the outcomes of these morphological variations is that only males and very young females are able to fly. Adult females are generally too large and heavy for their wings to enable a take-off."
In Germany, M. religiosa is listed as ‘threatened' on the German Red List. That means finders aren't supposed to be keepers: don't catch it or keep it as a pet.
The status of the male and female mantids in our neighborhood? They're still there in their respective yards. If they meet, however, the male may lose his head in the well documented phenonomen of sexual cannibalism...nature's way of better survivability--not for the male but for his offspring!
"Eating her mate provides the female with a lot of nutrients she doesn't have to hunt for," according to Wikipedia. "She has a prey item available that is bigger than the prey she would be able to catch in the manner she usually hunts. The meal also takes place during or shortly after she was fertilized giving her more resources for the faster production of a large ootheca with large eggs, increasing the chance of her offspring to survive. Males have also been known to be more attracted to heavier, well-nourished females for this reason."
There's a lesson in there somewhere!
An orchid mantis and a ghost mantis fascinated visitors at the recent open house hosted by the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
Officers of the UC Davis Entomology Club displayed mantids from the collection of secretary Lohitashwa "Lohit" Garikipati, who breeds the insects.
Garikipati also showed the European praying mantis, Mantis religiosa, an introduced species, and a native mantis, Stagmomantis limbata.
But it was a female orchid mantis that drew the most attention. The pink and white insect resembles orchid petals.
Helping him show the insects were Ent Club president Chloe Shott and treasurer Crystal Homicz. Membership in the club, which meets on Mondays at 6 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall, is open to all interested persons. Forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology serves as the advisor. Club activities include speaker presentations, outings, a float in the UC Davis Picnic Day parade, open house at Briggs Hall during the Picnic Day; and scientific excursions to Alcatraz Island.
All Bohart Museum open houses are family friendly and free and open to the public. The museum is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane.
The next weekend open houses scheduled are:
- Saturday, Nov. 18, "Parasitoid Palooza," from 1 to 4 p.m.
- Sunday, Jan. 21: "Bug-Art @ The Bohart," from 1 to 4 p.m.
- Saturday, Feb. 17: The campuswide "Biodiversity Museum Day" (hours to be announced)
- Saturday, April 21: The all-day campuswide UC Davis Picnic Day
The Bohart Museum, directed by Lynn Kimsey, UC Davis professor of entomology, is a world-renowned insect museum that houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens. It also maintains a live “petting zoo,” featuring walking sticks, Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, praying mantids, and tarantulas. A gift shop, open year around, offers T-shirts, sweatshirts, books, jewelry, posters, insect-collecting equipment and insect-themed candy.
The Bohart Museum's regular hours are from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The museum is closed to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and on major holidays. Admission is free.
For more information, contact the firstname.lastname@example.org or access the website or Facebook page. For more information on praying mantis, see Mantis Keepers, a Facebook page administered by Andrew Pfeifer of Monroe County, North Carolina.
Xena the Warrior Princess, a 16-year-old tuxedo cat that we rescued from the pound, crossed the Rainbow Bridge today in a local veterinarian's office. We had her 16 years, or if cats have staff, we were her staff for 16 years. She allowed us to feed her, pet her, and love her.
A black outline of a butterfly adorned her left hind leg, the mark of a pollinator partner. She followed me from blossom to blossom as I captured images of bees, butterflies, dragonflies, sweat bees, spiders, praying mantids and every other little critter imaginable in our pollinator garden. She'd sit beneath my garden chair, just glad to be there, just glad to be alive.
That's what a Pollinator Partner does.
Xena the Warrior Princess was part warrior and part princess: a cunning predator and a purring princess. A predator that would delight in showing us her trophies, and a princess that loved to snuggle.
Then on Leap Year Day, Feb. 29, 2016, Xena the Warrior Princess suffered a debilitating stroke. Sixteen short years, and she's gone. She didn't want to go and we didn't want her to leave.
Rest in peace, Pollinator Partner.
The severe California drought--we're in the fourth year--is affecting us all, but it's also affecting insects, says Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis.
She writes about "Insects and Drought" in the current edition of the Bohart Museum Society newsletter.
"Californians tend to focus on their lawns and the price of water, but the state's wildlands and animals are also affected," she points out.
Here are some of her observations:
- Drought-stressed trees, such as conifers, "are vulnerable to attack by bark beetles. "The trees are unable to effectively defend themselveswith resin because their oleoresin system is 'powered' by their water-filled vascular system."
- Due to the mild winter (lack of cold temperatures and rain), "houseflies began breeding much earlier, giving their populations an early start" to build up their numbers.
- Due to the drought, wildlife such as skunks, possums, deer, raccoons and turkeys are heading into surburban areas, and bringing their fleas and other parasites. "This is one of the reasons why it's a good idea to keep wildlife away from your home," Kimsey points out.
- Praying mantids emerged earlier than usual this year, and in some areas, are having difficulty finding food. Many immature baby mantids in the foothills starved to death.
- Walnut twig beetles, which in conjunction with a fungus causes thousand cankers disease on native black walnuts, seem to be thriving....the trees "are dying at an accelerated rate due to a combination of water stress and the disease."
So, with the changing weather patterns come the changing insect populations. "Once the rains return, these patterns will change yet again, and again each insect group will react differently," Kimsey said. "Increasing rain, with mild winter temperatures, will have a different effect on insects than more rain and cold temperatures."
Bottom line: "Every year is a new entomological adventure," Kimsey points out. "The more we learn, the less we seem to know about these creatures."
Want to join the Bohart Museum Society and receive the newsletter? And receive other benefits? Check out the society information on the website.
The Bohart Museum, home of nearly eight million insect specimens, is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane, UC Davis. It's open to the public Monday through Thursday (except from noon to 1 p.m.). It's also open on special weekend open houses. For general information, identification of insects, or to schedule a group tour, call the main number at (530) 752-0493. The main email is bmuseum[at]ucdavis.edu. The public education/outreach coordinator is Tabatha Yang (email@example.com)/span>
Some folks dislike photos of praying mantids snagging, killing and eating their prey. Well, often the "eating" part comes before the "killing" part.
Still, they have to kill to live. We all do.
Or someone does it for us.
We've been seeing lots of praying mantids in our bee garden, especially among the lavender (Lavandula), Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia) and passionflower vine (Passiflora). Most of them are lying in wait. Others, with spiked forelegs gripping their prey, are eating.
They have to kill to live.
We encountered this one (below) camouflaged in the lavender patch. Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at the University of California, Davis, thinks it may be a native species; it looks like some she's seen by the Yolo Causeway.
Praying mantids, of course, are insects and belong to the class Insecta, and the order Mantodea.
BugGuide.Net describes them as "Relatively large, elongate insects up to several inches long. Typical features include triangular heads with large compound eyes set on either side and usually three ocelli in between; very flexible articulation between the head and prothorax providing great mobility and allowing a mantid to 'look over its shoulder''; raptorial forelegs used to capture prey." California has some 20 species in 12 genera.
The word, mantis, is Greek for "soothsayer, prophet." (Maybe it should be "sure slayer.")
And yes, they can be highly cannibalistic. When they emerge from an ootheca or egg case, they show their brotherly love and sisterly love by eating one another.
BugGuide.Net says that the larger mantids can prey on small birds, lizards, and amphibians. Indeed, they can. YouTube displays videos of mantids attacking and eating hummingbirds.
We spotted an ootheca last winter on our barnlike bird house. Birds don't inhabit it. It's easy to see why.