Wandering along on our #NatureDoodlewash hike, I’ve stumbled across this little praying mantis. These are odd little creatures that are often hard to spot as their body shape and colors make them blend in with the plants or tree bark around them. Though their big bug eyes provide them with binocular vision, they apparently only have one ear, so they can’t discriminate the direction or frequency of sound. Also, this ear is weirdly located on their belly just in front of their back legs. This makes me think how bizarre it would be if that were the case for humans. At best, one would certainly not want to be caught whispering in public.
The weirdest thing about the praying mantis is its penchant for cannibalistic sex. The female will sometimes eat the head of the male while they are copulating and sometimes, more horrifyingly, even before they begin. But it turns out the male is actually a better lover without a brain to control his inhibitions and as a bonus his body provides nourishment for monster mom. While fairly common in artificial laboratory settings, it’s estimated that the ladies only eat their dates about 30% of the time in a natural setting. Still not super great odds if one is a mantis bachelor.
Of course, the name comes from their front legs that they hold upright as if in prayer. For all bees and other small insects reading this, please don’t be fooled by this angelic pose. This is simply the stance they take while waiting for prey so they can lash out with lightening speed and grab some dinner. Larger versions of this rather deadly predator can eat frogs, lizards and even birds. Wow, these things are starting to make spiders look friendly! There you have it though. The rather odd world of the surprisingly vicious praying mantis.
Join me throughout the month of June on a virtual nature hike! Show everyone what you love most in nature with a watercolor sketch or painting and tag your images #NatureDoodlewash so we can all enjoy it with you! I’ll create a featured artist gallery of our global hike at the end of the month!