Praying Mantis Watching: An Opportunity

As Praying Mantis season begins in Eliza Howell Park, I am pleased to announce that we are cooperating with  Detroit Audubon to provide an opportunity for those interested to watch — and perhaps to photograph — these fascinating insects.

DETAILS ON PARTICIPATING IN THE ELIZA HOWELL MANTIS WATCH CAN BE FOUND AT THE END OF THIS POST.

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The Praying Mantises are now reaching maturity and Kevin Murphy (my fellow mantis enthusiast) and I have been noting their increased visibility in and near their favorite wildflowers. They seem to be especially attracted to some of the goldenrods.

It can be a challenge, at times, simply to spot them, as they perch unmoving on plant stems.

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They can be so well camouflaged that even the best searchers miss many, maybe most. They are variously colored in shades of green and brown, and I find those almost fully green the most difficult to find when the leaves are still green.

The second of the following pictures is enlarged to show the mantis that looks like one of the goldenrod leaves from only a few feet away. The challenge is to find the mantis in the first picture

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Their stalking method —  avoiding most movement — has real advantages for our watching once they are found. There is a good chance that they will be in the same locations a little later if we return to point them out to someone else.

In addition, we can often get fairly close without scaring them away, allowing for some good views.

They don’t move much, until prey comes close. Then they snag the bee or other insect with their long grasping front legs. They eat on the spot, without killing the prey first.

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Praying Mantises have a limited lifetime once they reach adulthood. They will soon be mating, after which females lay eggs. It is not unusual for observers who visit the area frequently to see both of these events, each of which takes hours to complete.

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There are reports of females eating males after or during mating, starting by biting the head off. I have not seen this.

But I have often seen females laying eggs, first making the egg case into which she deposits the eggs. The case hardens and the eggs remain through the winter (when not eaten by some predator or otherwise destroyed) and energe from the case when the weather warms in the spring.

In Eliza Howell, they simetimes lay their eggs on goldenrods, but they often use the limbs of shrubs or small trees (something a little more sturdy than a flower) near their feeding and mating area.

Adults die shortly after mating and egg laying.

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We are hoping to schedule the field trip for the most active time, so we want to wait a bit longer before set the exact dates. But the indications are that it will likely be quite soon.

If you are interested, please let Detroit Audubon know* that you want to be on the list of those to be kept informed. As soon as we can, we will inform Audubon of the dates and hours when at least one of us will be available on site to assist you in locating the mantises when you arrive.

* To be on the email list, send a message to

programs@detroitaudubon.org

with “STOP field trips” in the subject line.

There are many marvelous seasons in the park. Praying Mantis season is definitely one.

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