Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Praying Mantis's of Catasauqua

In my front yard
My first encounter with the magical Praying Mantis was a bug collection for school that one of my cousins was doing.   They had just stuck a pin through it and were watching it pray as it was dying; and my heart went out to this poor little insect that was so close to God it would pray.  Now that I am older, I still marvel at the praying mantis especially since I moved to my house on Howertown Road in Catasauqua.

Each spring a bevy of the creatures hatch from cocoons that they laid in the bushes and always 1 or 2 hang around all summer and fall and I can continue to watch them grow.  They are an odd insect.  Last weekend I went up to one on the bushes out front and said hi, and then watched it turned its head and those two big bug eyes look at me.  It was like a bug horror movie, I backed away.  But since then I found our some interest facts about the praying mantis.

1)  The belief that it is illegal to kill a praying mantis (a crime carrying a $50 fine as a punishment) has been floating around since the 1950s, and no one has an idea where this bit of insectoid legal apocrypha came from. There is not (and never has been) any federal or state law prohibiting the killing of praying mantises. They're certainly useful insects that are best left alone since they eat a lot of other bugs we consider pests, but they're hardly an endangered species. (If they were endangered, killing them would carry a fine far heftier than $50.) Maybe because they're considered beneficial insects and have such an unusual posture (they're prayin', fer gosh sake!) people literally thought it a crime to kill them.

2) Mantids are closely related to cockroaches and termites. These three seemingly different insects – mantids, termites, and cockroaches – are believed to descend from a common ancestor.

3) Female mantids sometimes eat their matesYes, it's true, female praying mantids do cannibalize their sex partners. In some instances, she'll even behead the poor chap before they've consummated their relationship. As it turns out, a male mantid is an even better lover when his brain, which controls inhibition, is detached from his abdominal ganglion, which controls the actual act of copulation. (There is so much I want to say here but I am biting my tongue on this one)

4)  Mantids are unique among insects in their ability to turn their heads a full 180 degrees
Try to sneak up on a praying mantis, and you may be startled when it looks over its shoulder at you. No other insect can do so.  (This is I know since it scared the heck out of me)

5)  The word "mantis" comes from the Greek word meaning prophet.
Over in the bushes in the front yard

6)  The European Mantis (mantis religiosa), a native of Southern Europe became the official State Insect of Connecticut on October 1st, 1977!

7)  Did you know that most of the about 2,000 species' of mantids worldwide are found in Asia?
There are about 20 U.S. native mantids. Two species, the Chinese Mantis and European Mantis, were purposely introduced to control pests in farms and gardens.

Now I always thought of them as a harmless creature until I saw the video of one them killng a hummingbird. Yes a bird - you can check it out here:  

Well, I guess that's it for now, sorry I haven't been blogging much, I guess I gotta get back in the swing of it.  In the meantime, that's another day in Catasauqua