natural sightings

Randy Weinstein took this photo of a praying mantis at Meadowbrook Dog Park in Golden Hills.

Praying mantises are predatory insects that feed on a wide variety of arthropods. The mantids in our area are ambush predators, meaning they typically remain motionless on foliage or other surfaces and wait for smaller prey to happen by.

When some other insect gets close, the praying mantis will suddenly lunge forward and seize it with its spiked forearms. The mantis then immediately starts eating its hapless prey, since it has no venom or other means to subdue it.

Praying mantises are considered to have some of the best vision in the insect world, and their heads have a greater range of motion, being able to turn 180 degrees in either direction. Since they primarily use their vision to find prey, mantids are typically diurnal.

Praying mantises can be purchased from plant nurseries as a group of tiny hatchlings shortly after emerging from their ootheca, or egg case. However, since they eat anything they can catch, both garden pests and beneficial insects like pollinators, their usefulness as biological pest control is debatable.

Praying mantises can fly, though they typically don't fly long distances and do so mainly to find a different hunting area, or in the case of males, to find a receptive female.

Although they are predators, praying mantises are also prey themselves, and are considered food by a variety of birds, bats and small mammals. Mantids rely mostly on cryptic coloration to help them blend into the background and go unnoticed.

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.

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