Thursday, September 1, 2011

Tiny dancer

She's barely an inch high
It's been a critter-filled summer here, but one thing we've learned to get used to here in Topanga is bugs. Yesterday evening, while unpacking my fresh vegetables from the Farmer's Market, this little fellow - or lady - leapt out from the leaves of the Swiss Chard and danced across my cutting board.

The insect family Mantidae refers to the bugs commonly called "Praying Mantis." They're called that because of their characteristic stance - they stand on their back legs and hold their front legs up, folded like hands in prayer.

Only these little guys are about as far from devout and saintly as you can get - they're vicious predators. More like "Preying Mantis."  They hunt and kill other insects, and are so predatory that the larger species can kill lizards, small birds, snakes, fish and even mice!

The mating cycle of the mantis is pretty gruesome. The species is known for sexual cannibalism, where the female bites the head off the male while he's in the act of mating with her.

This little one in my market basket is just a baby - a nymph. She's teensy. But she was pretty fierce, even so - dashing across the cutting board like a warrior. Nymph mantises are known to kill and eat one another, if they can't find enough food when they hatch out.

She wants to get inside my salad bowl
Organic farmers use mantises for pest control, purchasing the dried egg cases and deploying them in the garden or farm rows. That's probably where this little nymph came from. Although there are around 2,000 different species of Praying Mantis in the world, this is probably Stagmomantis californicus, the California mantis.

Pink Saturday visitors, welcome! Come back tomorrow for the Pink Saturday post!

12 comments:

Max said...

What a cutie. Did you name her?

déjà pseu said...

I'd heard about the coital decapitation, but didn't know that mantises were such fierce predators. Still, she's quite pretty.

Gilly said...

Vicious little thing! But very pretty! What did you do with her?

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I'm going to guess she went outside to live in the garden.
~

Gary's third pottery blog said...

lotsa bugs up in your neighborhood? lotsa snakes too, hmm? shivvvver....

yogurt said...

Growing up we were told it was illegal to kill a preying mantis and a daddy long leg. Took me the longest to figure out why anyone would want either of those critters around.

Janet said...

she's very adorable :-)

LV said...

That is not what we called them when I was growing up. However, I do not recall what we did call them. We were told to stay away from them as they would spit juice in our eyes.

Francie...The Scented Cottage Studio said...

Now that was a little extra in your bundle ! Interesting to me how some of the most beautiful creatures are some of the most vicious.
(())

dana said...

Great description of those PREYING Manti (is that the plural form?). They are so innocent looking and yet so aggressive! I would have peed my pants if that thing had jumped out of my farmer's market purchases! :)

Have a great Labor Day weekend! It's really hot in MO, but cool weather is coming our way by Sunday.....at last!

dana

Kaye Swain - SandwichINK for the Sandwich Generation said...

Very interesting. And boy, wouldn't my grandchildren enjoy this little guy! Thanks for a fun visit for Pink Saturday :)

Elaine said...

When living on the farm we used to see a lot of these "dancers".. not so much now since I live in town.
Your post brought back some happy childhood memories