Closer to Home: The Carolina Mantis

Welcome to the newest episode of Cool Things I’ve Found Around My House! I love to explore even areas that I often overlook; it usually leads to some pretty hilarious batscapades (maybe next week I’ll share some more pictures of the black widow I found, but that’s a story for another day).

One thing I love to find is praying mantises. I’ve grown up with a healthy appreciation for a lot of animals, not least among them mantids.When I was younger, we even had an enterprising mantid try to hide on our hummingbird feeder so she could catch one. Makes you wonder what their version of the phrase ‘I’m so hungry I could eat a …’ is, or if there is a practical limit to what they can catch and eat.

So when we found this little guy hiding in our flowers last year, I got pretty excited.

He was only about a centimeter long and was very carefully trying to figure out how far a juvenile praying mantis could fly.

We ooh’ed and ahh’ed over him for about 10 minutes before he settled down into the flowers and we left him to find some breakfast. No word on whether he figured out how to fly or not. Maybe we should have named him Wright.

Funnily enough, a few weeks later, we saw this full grown male Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis carolina) on the window.

What gets me is that the males are so slender and have bright green legs, while the females look like nothing more than leaf litter.

Yes, I know, it’s a cell phone picture, but I can’t lug my camera with me everywhere. This pretty little girl was about three inches long and stopped long enough for us to take some pictures of her before figuring out she was free and scurrying off.

The best part of mantises is definitely their eyes. They’ll follow your finger around with chameleon-like eyes that are surprisingly accurate. While I admit I am in general easily amused, if given a mantis patient enough, I could play with them for hours; I think they are just that awesome. Not that I would do that or anything; that’s like the cat who just stares at an aquarium without blinking, making the fish implode and HAL go crazy. Or am I thinking of something else?

Anyway, not everyone references mantises and argiopes when they’re talking about noticing the little things in life, but if I stop to think, my plants don’t have bad spider mites on them because the praying mantises are gorging on their nasty arachnid selves. And argiopes and black widows catch horseflies, mosquitoes, and other buzzing things that generally make me itch, which makes my time outside just that much more enjoyable.

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