Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mantid Reproduction Story

A brief marriage, an amicable divorce, and a ...snack?

I have been keeping an adult female mantid in a screened "butterfly cage" on my back patio. This morning, I found a male perched on the outside of her cage, apparently attracted by her pheromones.

Sometimes these big limbata ladies will literally eat their way through multiple would-be suitors before they ever get a chance to mate. But I threw caution to the wind and threw him in there with her. He was clearly interested, and he crept closer and closer to her until, with one smooth little hop, mounted her, and she did not put up a struggle or reach back to grab him.

Then I thought to take a picture.

I took this photo through the top of the screen cage. I couldn't focus too well. I didn't want to spook her. Still she looks up at me, and says, "Must you?"

This afternoon I saw that they had finished mating, and the male was just behind her, I got him out of the cage. He flew onto a box of stuff on my patio table. I gave him a spritz of water, which I think he appreciated. He smiled and allowed me to take his picture, and then he flew up into the tree.

There he is in the tree. Goodbye, Mr. Mantis.

The female still inside the cage. I caught her doing something that, it turns out, some female insects will do after mating.
But I have to warn some of you. (like Julie)
This is kind of gross.
So if you don't want to see a gross bug thing,
Or read about it,
Now's the time to leave this post.
So, anyway, the female mantid was bent over double, grabbing her own abdomen in her claws.
She was eating the spermatophore.
That's the little package the male left behind. I've read that sometimes there's a little something extra in there, called a nuptial gift. Sometimes the female will take out the spermatophore before fertilization takes place. And sometimes she will save it for later in an organ called a spermatheca.
I can't say for sure what this mantis was doing with her gift, but she was busy.

Monday, September 27, 2010

"One-eyed" mantid update

He's all grown up now.

His eye looks cloudy. I don't know if he can see out of it. His broken antenna grew a little bit, and seems to be functioning (wiggling) normally. He is still able to catch the flies I have been offering him.

You can see my previous post about this mantid here.

Porch katydid

A funny viewing angle. She was looking down on me.

Little screen door spider

This little daddy-longleg type of spider was illuminated by the first rays of the sun on my sliding patio door.

Early Morning Spider

Here are a couple of views of a large Araneus orb weaver in my back yard.

Hotter than a spider in a metal pipe

For years now, the brown widow spider population around here has been growing. I have been aware that they like to make their homes in crevices, including such things as unused hose bibs, and chain link fence posts and fittings. Normally they will hide during the day and emerge after sundown to feed. But today's blistering heat turned their metal homes into tiny ovens, driving them out into the comparitive cool of the mid-day 106-degree heat, where I took their picture. They did their best to remain in the slim shadows of the chain link hardware, gate latches and such. This is just a sample, but there were many. I stopped counting at 8.

The spider is blurry in this shot, but I like how the fence looks.

Proof of "widowhood". The hourglass.

Here was a family. The large female in the foreground with a baby one nearby. The male is out of focus in the background.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


An early-morning walk in the park revealed several tiny orb webs in the chain link fence. Each one bejewelled by the morning dew, none with spiders.

Porch Moth

Fractured Western Snout Moth, Diastictis fracturalis.
A new one for me. Cute, huh? The white patches on the wings are iridescent in person.

Mantid size comparison

These are two mature female mantids. The little brown one is S. californica, and the big green one is S. limbata.

I felt a little uneasy having them so close to each other on the rim of the container, so I held the big one as close as I dared to take this shot. The little one seems especially small. I've definitely seen bigger ones, but I've also seen a limbata male mating with a californica female, and I wonder if there are limbata/californica hybrids running around now.

Find the mantid 2

I spied this rather scrawny brown female S. californica in this clump of dead penstemon stalks.

See her there?

OK, how about now?

She had an admirer nearby.

I collected the female briefly to take her picture, and in the process I also collected some penstemon seeds. If anyone would like them, let me know. I will mail them to you. They are California natives and drought tolerant. I think they are Penstemon spectabilis.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Geometer moth

Marbled Cellar spider

Holocnemus pluchei

Saturday Night Fever bug

Cute little bug. I'm not sure exactly what his name is, but I'm calling him the Saturday Night Fever bug.

Why, you ask?
Because he's sorta posing like...


More from the Hemizonia

A gray bird nymph in dark and golden brown, the better to blend in with the plant stems.

Green Lynx and prey.

Nice to see you

I might as well enjoy these guys as long as I'm finding so many :)

Find the mantid

He's in there. I see him.

He's well hidden...

But not well enough for me!

Wanna be's

When I re-did my blog background, had a few pictures to pick from. These are a couple that I didn't use, but I may use them in the future.

A teeny-tiny grasshopper nymph on a bright red zinnia. This picture, while taken just the other day, says "summer", and I wanted something more fall-like.

And I just might switch to this lovely mantis.

I love her creamy color.

In this shot, you can see a little crumb of the bug she had eaten.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

A beautiful moth's debut

This exquisite little moth emerged from the soil in the container on my front porch. I took the first few shots while it was still in there, because I didn't know how quickly it would fly away.

A view of the underwings

Pretty greenish eyes

Forked tongue. I have no idea if this is how all moth tongues look. I've never been lucky enough to see this before.

A try at capturing the irridescent shine on the wings.

I set him(?) on a tree branch in my yard. Shortly thereafter, he flew away.
You can see him in his caterpillar stage here, and see his pupa here.
I am also going to submit him to BugGuide, because I'm not sure if he's really a corn earworm moth. He seems a little too patterny compared to the pictures I saw on there.

Update: The moth has been identified as Heliothis phloxiphaga. And because I was the first one, apparently, on BugGuide to have reared this moth from the larval stage, I have the first identified submission of the caterpillar, making it possible now to give ID's to other similar caterpillars that may also be H. phloxiphaga.

My good deed for the day :)

Mantis with a bad eye

Yesterday I found this sub-adult S. limbata at the park. He has a bad eye and also, I have noticed, his antenna on that side is broken off and no longer moves at all. (Normally, a mantid's antennae are always wiggling.) I brought him home and fed him. Fortunately, he can still catch flies OK, but he still seems a little "off".

I don't know if there's any kind of bad stuff in that eye that could travel through his body and kill him. I don't know what will happen to his eye when he makes his final shed in another week or two. I will give him a comfy life for now with plenty of food and protection from predators.

Oh, and here's a post from MObugs about the mantis she found with a bad eye. Cue the It's A Small World music.
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