Friday, September 25, 2009

Praying Mantis

There are 20 species of Mantids in North America, nearly 2500 worldwide. They get their name from the way they hold their forelegs. They aren't really praying but they are an opportunistic predator, eating anything within reach, including each other. They have very powerful, downward pointing mouth parts. They can turn their triangular heads nearly 360 degrees. They have three simple eyes located between their compound eyes on the side of their heads and generally one ear located between it's thorax and abdomen. Males are typically smaller with wings that extend beyond their thorax. The females wings are shorter and colorful. Males are more adept at flight than the female.

A mantid's color gives them the ability to blend in with the habitat in which they hunt. Some hunt in trees and shrubs while others hunt on the ground. Females require more food and are often seen near flowers which attract a variety of prey. The weave back and forth and strike quickly to grab an insect, small reptile or a finger. They often become prey to birds, spiders and humans. They are not harmful to humans and will only bite in defense. The spines on their forelegs can hurt a bit if they grab a finger.

During mating the female will, occasionally, attack her mate and eat him as he approaches her or during or after mating. In the fall the female will attach her egg case to a rock, a wall or another hard surface. She will even attach it to a plant stem or under a leaf. She will stay near to protect the egg case from predators. The egg case will hatch in about three weeks. She will die soon after. When the young hatch they will hunt whatever is nearby. If food is not readily available they will devour each other.

Mantids molt six to nine times before adulthood. The young mantid has no ear but will begin forming one by the third molt. By the sixth molt it's ear, which is located in the middle of its thorax, is fully developed. Mantids can get very large and are quite beneficial in gardens as they eat any manner of insects.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


I have taken a lot of bird photos. I am displaying some of them on this yuwie club. I hope you enjoy them as I will be posting more of our winter friends. I do my best to identify them, but if I am wrong, I would appreciate any help. Thank you!

The Hawk landed in our tree and the Goldfinches and other birds froze where they were. The finches remained in the position on the right the entire time the hawk was there, which was a good 10 minutes. It was as if they were holding their breaths hoping they wouldn't be seen. Nothing moved while he sat in our tree. When he flew off the finches on the feeder and the Juncos hiding in the shrubs began coming out. In a few minutes all was normal.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Photographing spiders

I really got into Macro photography about two years ago. I never realized how beautiful insects could be. I never thought I would get up close and personal with spiders, but they are truly fascinating creatures. I never knew orb weavers (bottom two) took their webs down each evening and re-spun them. Some are very elaborate. Some spiders build tunnel like webs where they lie in wait for prey. Not all spiders build webs, spiders like the crab spider and the Wolf spider (left) hunt their pray without relying on silk, yet they all use silk. On a warm sunny day you can see tiny spiders drifting along on streamers of silk and most people have experienced the creepy feeling of walking into a spider's web.

Spiders get a bad rap, but they are really beneficial. People get bit by
spiders and hardly notice. Spiders rarely bite humans unless they are provoked or rolled on. The Wolf spider in the photo above looks about as big and menacing as a spider can get, but he is quite harmless to humans and will quickly retreat when approached. The colorful Crab spider bites, but would rather wait in a flower for it's prey.

Spiders are everywhere! About 40,000 species exist in the world and most are quite harmless to us. The Brown Recluse and Black Widows are exceptions in North America. Their bites can be serious and painful to humans. Brown Recluse spiders are rarely seen but they are all around and people rarely get bit by one. Their bite can be very serious though. They move across a surface very quickly, so capturing one with a camera, at least for me, has been impossible. I haven't seen a Black Widow since I gave up pest control work years ago. I don't go looking for them. Both prefer dark, out of the way spaces.

Spiders do make interesting subjects for macro photography like the Orb weaver, commonly called a Black and yellow garden spider (right) wrapping his dragonfly catch. Commonly mistaken for a Banana spider, it is not. Intimidating but not a threat to humans. I never noticed a Golden rod Crab spider (above right) or the Spiny backed Orb weaver (above) until I started using Macro on my camera. Their color, variety, shapes and sizes are truly amazing when one takes time to stop and observe.