By Wendy Langhans
“Listen to the ground: there is movement all around. There is something goin’ down and I can feel it.” Suddenly, a Stagmomantis californica flew out of the darkness and abrubtly landed on my rosebush. He carefully folded his spike-studded forearms and stared unblinkingly at me. Whatever his reason for being there, it wasn’t to “stop and smell the roses”.
How did I know it was a “he”? Well, I didn’t at first. But a quick look at the field guide gave me a clue – while California Mantids can be either tanish brown or green, the males are slender and their wings are long, extending to the tip of their abdomen and sometimes beyond. Here’s a picture of a female, so you can see the difference.
All Praying Mantids are carnivores; maybe he was visiting my rosebush because he was hungry. “In all the kingdom of the living, there is no more deadly or voracious creature than the Praying Mantis.” Or so says one of the characters in this 1957 monster movie “The Deadly Mantis”. A report from Oregon State provides less dramatic, and more factual details: “Mantids are ambush predators, meaning they wait for food to come to them.” Then they strike, catching their prey with their strong, spike-studded forearms. They usually devour the head first, then the rest of the body.
But then again, maybe it wasn’t hunger. Praying Mantids are usually active during the day. Could he be out at night for another reason? Praying Mantids reach maturity in the fall. Perhaps those “waves of the air” carried the scent of female mantid pheromones. Maybe he’s looking for that “sweet city woman”, who “moves through the light”.
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We may be on to something here. Check out the tightly sculpted abs on this fellow. Doesn’t he look a bit like John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever”? What female mantid could resist that pose?
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