A hunter on the prowl – the praying mantis

Hunting bugs on the wall of the main house.

Hunting bugs on the wall of the main house.

I have written a few posts on the birds and animals you might see at Lakeside, but there are also some fascinating insects. Both of the photos in this post were taken on the veranda of the main house fairly early in the morning. It is obvious from their colour which one lives in a verdant bush and which one makes it’s home in dry or dead leaves!

The praying mantis (or mantid) gets it’s name from the way it holds it’s front legs like a person praying.  These insects are carnivorous hunters, well adapted to their way of life. They have a triangular head on a long “neck,” (part of an elongated thorax) and can turn their heads 180 degrees to scan their surroundings with their two large compound eyes and three other simple eyes which are located between them.

Mantids are usually green or brown which provides excellent camouflaged as they live on plants where they lie in ambush, waiting for their prey to come to them, or slowly and patiently stalking it. They use their front legs to reach out and grab their prey with reflexes which are so quick that they are difficult to see with the naked eye. Once they have a hold of their dinner the spikes on the legs dig in to prevent the meal escaping.

The praying mantis will eat moths, crickets, grasshoppers, flies, and other insects; they are also cannibals and are not averse to eating their own kind. The most famous example of this is the mating behavior of the adult female, who sometimes eats her mate just after — or even during — mating. Strangely, the male doesn’t seem to be put off by this!

Is this a dead leaf?  No, it's a hunter on the prowl!

Is this a dead leaf? No, it’s a hunter on the prowl!