Natural Sightings #656 - Praying Mantis.jpg

A Praying Mantis clings to the side of a saucer of a potted fern.

Laurie Peters took this photo of a Praying Mantis that was clinging to the side of a saucer of a potted fern at her home.

Praying Mantids are ambush predators that sit quietly and wait for some kind of invertebrate to happen by. When one does, the Praying Mantis suddenly lunges forward and grasps it with its spiky forearms.

Unlike many insect predators, a Praying Mantis lacks any kind of venom to subdue its prey — it simply seizes a cricket, spider, beetle, etc. and starts to eating it. Some Praying Mantids are green, while others are light brown, tan or sand-colored. All are very pale like this one right after they molt.

Praying Mantids are known for having good eyesight and a kind of "neck" that allows their head to turn 180 degrees to look at their surroundings, or watch prey as it approaches.

Some gardeners place Praying Mantids in their garden as a form of biological pest control, which can work, but mantids are not discerning and they will eat welcome insects like pollinators as readily as they will pest insects like cutworms.

Mantids themselves are prey for birds, lizards and other predators, and they will sometimes rise up, extend their forelegs and spread their wings to look larger and more formidable. Because they hunt using their eyesight, mantids are mostly active during daylight hours, though some fly at night (mostly males) and are occasionally attracted to porch lights.

NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: editorial@tehachapinews.com.