Miraculous Mantids

I work on Saturdays, so today was just an average work day for me.  I opened the field station, unlocked the bathrooms, and fed the birds before gathering the things I needed for my weekly public citizen science walk.  Many of my volunteers come on Saturdays, so I typically have a good stream of them coming in and out of my office all morning.  I chat with them for a bit, then hand them a clipboard and send them off to collect data of various types.

This morning, one of my volunteers came in and took a seat as he waited for his data collection teammate to arrive.  He looked down at the desk, pointed, and said, “Is that a mantis?”  And sure enough, it was!

Chinese mantid

Chinese mantid

I was surprised to see a mantid in the office at all, but this was a small mantid with the fresh look of a recently hatched baby mantid.  I told my volunteer to look for more and, between my desk and the one next to mine, we found about 15 or 20 of them.  That could only mean one thing: there was a mantid egg case somewhere in my office, and it had recently hatched.

My second volunteer arrived and they both went out to collect data as I started searching for the case.  One of my office mates is an entomologist and the primary K-12 educator at the field station, so she often brings things in like egg cases that she’s going to use for upcoming programs.  But there was no mantid egg case on her desk.  I knew I hadn’t brought one in, so it wasn’t going to be on my desk.  That left one desk and my heart fell a bit: no mantid egg case anywhere!  I was just about to go look in the other two rooms of the lovely construction trailer that we work in when I caught something out of the corner of my eye.  It was this:

Charred Chinese mantid egg case

Charred Chinese mantid egg case

The annual controlled burn of the prairie took place earlier this month.  One of my coworkers had noted how many mantid egg cases were in the field and she mobilized her volunteers to clip off as many as they could before the burn took place.  They didn’t get all of them, however. The charcoaled egg case above was discovered after the burn went through.  The woman who sits next to me had brought it in and displayed it in a vase on her desk.

When I noticed the blackened egg case, I thought, “No…  Surely that can’t be it!”  But there was this little nagging feeling in the back of my mind that said I should take a closer look.  When I did, I saw a mantid wiggling its way out of the case! There were also telltale stringy bits coming out of the front seam. The eggs in that egg case, which we had all assumed had been charred to a crisp, was HATCHING!  And there were a surprising number for an egg case that left ashy dust on your hands and crumbled apart when you handled it.

And that’s one of many things I learned at work today, that mantid eggs cases are WAY more protective of the eggs inside than I had ever thought!  That egg case looked hopeless, absolutely beyond hope, yet it still produced new life.  I caught as many mantids as I could get my hands on and released them outside.  The last I saw of the last one I released was this, a momentary pause before it dashed off into the depths of the tree and disappeared:

Chinese mantid

Chinese mantid

Nature is so cool.  You could go out every day and see as many things as you possibly could and never even scratch the surface of what’s possible.

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth.

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Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Mantid Butt

The ol’ home computer is still having massive problems, so just a quick post for today. It’s been a couple of months since I posted a mantid photo, and because they’re such awesome insects, you can’t ever see enough mantids, and I’ve seen a lot of them recently, I give you this:

Mantid butt!

Mantid butt!

Mantid butt! This is a Chinese mantid, so it’s a really BIG mantid butt too. Here’s hoping it was just full of eggs and NOT full of parasites like that one time…  :)

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Friday 5 (a day late): Insects on Holly

I never managed to get this finished when it was current, so everything in this post happened about a month ago now. But it was also just sitting there, one paragraph away from completion, so here goes!  Can’t let a nearly finished post go to waste!

The holly trees have bloomed in Raleigh and are now headed toward producing the lovely red berries they’re so well-known for. The bloom was spectacular! It wasn’t because the flowers were all that impressive as they’re small blooms that blend well with the foliage.  You can barely even tell a holly is in bloom looking at it. But, walk by one of the blooming trees and you know instantly. They positively hum with all the life that surrounds them! The flowers attract dozens of different pollinators, all eager to drink their fill of nectar, and I found some amazing things lurking among the leaves. Allow me to share a few of them with you.  We’ll start with…

Fly Number One

Fly on holly

Fly on holly

I’ve essentially given up trying to ID flies from photographs because I never look at them closely enough in life (bad habit!) nor collect enough specimens to feel confident in my identifications. It’s one of those things that’s been on my “Someday, when I have more time…” to do list for ages, but then I never seem to have more time. That said, I really want to say this is a member of the Bibionidae, the March flies.  Assuming I’m right about my fly’s ID, these are water-loving flies! You all know how much I enjoy insects that appreciate water.  :)

Fly Number Two

Fly on holly

Fly on holly

I was initially drawn to the particular holly bush where I found all the insects pictured here because I walked past it and caught this fly out of the corner of my eye.  I ran inside to get my camera, but by the time I got back it was gone.  I spent kept looking for another one because I liked the pattern on the wings so much.  Thankfully my persistence paid off! I only got the back of the fly in the photos that weren’t horribly blurry, but such is life sometimes.  At least you can see the gorgeous wings that drew me to this fly in the first place.  What a beauty!

Mantid

Mantid on holly

Mantid on holly

There’s something about this mantid that I found especially adorable.  It wasn’t doing the normal mantid thing where it nervously skittered away the moment I brought the camera near it.  Instead, it just sat there on the leaf, boldly holding its ground as I stuck the camera right up in its face.  I imagine the blooming holly was a very, very good location for a little mantid nymph to set up shop, like an mantid all you can eat buffet of little prey insects.  I never did get to see it eat anything, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Maybe his sluggishness was due to overeating?

Longhorn Beetle

Longhorn beetle on holly

Longhorn beetle on holly

Who doesn’t love a good longhorn beetle? They look so elegant with their slender antennae that nearly double the length of their bodies.  This particular longhorn is in the Typocerus genus (likely T. zebra), a group of longhorns that feed on wood as larvae.  I’ll be honest though: I mostly snapped a photo of it because I thought it was pretty.  Sometimes you just have to admit these things to yourself.

Scorpionfly

Scorpionfly on holly

Scorpionfly on holly

I’ve made insect collections for four different classes at this point, two in Colorado and two in Arizona.  I have also taught classes that included insect collections as part of the requirements.  I can say with confidence that the insect in the photo up there is one of THE most coveted insects for entomology students in the southwest.  There are no scorpionflies in the southwest, so they are precious. You have to either go visit family or friends further east or have family/friends collect and send them to you if you want to have scorpionflies in your collection.  If you’re lucky enough to have extra specimens and are willing to trade them for other things, you can trade a scorpionfly for nearly anything else you might want because they’re “worth” more than most other insects in southwestern collections.  Imagine my delight when I learned that they’re a dime a dozen in North Carolina! I’ve seen loads of them at this point.  That said, I doubt that there will ever come a day where I don’t squeal with childish glee every time I see one because I’m always going to remember how I wanted one SO badly for my collection, but none of MY friends or relatives ever sent me one…

There were dozens of other species hiding in the holly while it was blooming, predators, nectar feeders, and insects that simply sought a place to rest for a moment or to seek shelter from the near constant wind.  The bush was absolutely crawling with insects!  I’m sure this image will be horrifying to some of you, but I thought it was marvelous.  What a sight!  Can’t wait to see it again next year.

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth.

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Future Mantids

They may be hard to find among the vegetation as soon as they hatch, but it is VERY easy to find the egg cases of mantids, like this one…

Mantid egg case

Mantid egg case

… where I work at Prairie Ridge.  In Arizona, I had to work to find mantid egg cases and I was always super excited when I did.  In the Raleigh area it seems like every other tree has a mantid egg case on it!  A few days ago, one of my coworkers saw the first new mantid sitting on top of its case among those we have gathered in the garden, one tiny, perfect little Chinese mantid.  There are likely millions more about to hatch at Prairie Ridge alone.  Just one more sign that spring is coming – and that I’ll have a lot more new bug photos and stories to share soon!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: The Mantid

Part of the BugFest event that my museum held in September was a glorious sand sculpture of an insect out in front of the main building.  I got to watch a bit of the guys carving it the day before Bug Fest, but I didn’t get to see the final product until a few days after it was over.  It was out there for about a week, and I was glad because that thing was awesome:

Mantid sculpture

Mantid sculpture

You know, I wrote a poem for my English class in high school about nearly the exact same thing.  Odd to see it as a giant sand sculpture!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Coming Soon: BugFest!

I needed a break today and that meant that the blog post I had planned never quite materialized.  What can you do?  Even I need a break from the bugs occasionally!  I’ll tell you all about the joy that was BugFest tomorrow, but for today I leave you with this gorgeous girl:

Chinese mantid

Chinese mantid

She was one of the many live insects at BugFest on Saturday and represented this year’s theme (mantids) well.  Look how fat she is!  She is far and away the biggest mantid I’ve ever seen.

Until tomorrow!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Just can’t help myself

I know, I know.  I’ve done mantid photos on Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday already, but I can’t help myself.  Mantids are super fun to interact with and they’re gorgeous, so I take a lot of photos when I see them.  I mean, come on.  Who can resist that face?:

mantid

Mantid near my front porch light at night

Obviously not me!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © TheDragonflyWoman.com