Thursday, September 22, 2011

Finding Nature Around You: The Praying Mantis

I was late for work so I was running out the door and down the steps of my Grafton home's back porch.  And I nearly smushed a beautiful praying mantis, a winged insect of the family Mantidae.  Unlike their closest relatives - grasshoppers - the mantids are exclusively carnivorous, actually "preying" on other insects.  (Although the "praying" name comes from the way they hold their forelegs in an almost reverent position.)  Did you know that the female mantis will often devour the male after - or even during - copulation?  Yep, apparently a beheaded male can still get the job done.  Despite their formidable looking clawed forelegs, these creatures are harmless to humans.  I picked this one up for some photographs, which was probably exhausted from the torrents of water ripping through its habitat from a rainstorm the previous day.  After the pictures, I put it back in some tall grass under some trees, hoping to hide it from hungry birds.  Truly a beautiful creature!