Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Praying Mantis lurks in some Boneset.

Predators were everywhere when I visited the pond at Meadowside Nature Center last week.  Some of them I spotted right away, some I only found when I looked at my photos later. I photographed this Monarda to catch a small bee in action, but later realized I had captured a Praying Mantis lurking in ambush! Good thing I’m not small enough to be prey, I would have blundered right into the mantis’ trap.

The mantis is just to the left of the top two blossoms.

I also found these tattered remains of a Monarch butterfly in the pond—perhaps a dragonfly’s victim.  It’s too bad, too-- I haven't seen many Monarchs this summer. Hopefully I’ll spot more over the next several weeks, especially as their migration starts.

Death among the lily pads.

Later I discovered another mantis lurking on the side of a wooden fence post.  Here it’s munching on half of a bug; in the next shot you can also see the other half of the carcass on a nearby plant stem.

Munch munch.

Cleaning up after dinner.

A few hours later I witnessed a tremendous battle in miniature. First I heard an odd-sounding cicada, rattling slowly and somewhat erratically.  I was able to trace the sound to a clump of shrubby plants with willow-like leaves.

A cicada I'd seen earlier in the day.

It took me a few minutes to search the greenery.  Then I noticed a small patch of leaves shaking.  I finally found the dark shape of the cicada—and realized why it was struggling to make noise: a praying mantis had it clutched in a death grip! The cicada was pretty huge compared to the mantis, several times the size of the mantis’s head.  That was one strong and ambitious mantis. It hung on to the cicada even when pulled upside down. The cicada wasn’t giving in easily, either. The battle seemed to go in waves: first the cicada would make some progress, the mantis getting yanked back and forth as the cicada almost got free.  Then the mantis would wrestle it back under control and the cicada would quiet down, but not for long.  Finally the mantis won, chomping into the cicada’s abdomen while the latter’s legs were still wriggling! Yikes.

Fight stage A-- mantis is currently winning.

Fight stage B-- cicada's struggles have pulled mantis upside down.

I saw lots of other hunting going on at the pond that morning too. A Red-tailed Hawk circled overhead, a spider wasp prowled among the lily pads and a fishing spider stalked across the pond surface.

Red-tailed Hawk looking for lunch.

Spider wasp, family Pompilidae.

Six-spotted Fishing Spider creeps across the hydrilla.

Wow. I was sure glad there were no predators large enough to hunt me.

This entry's location: Meadowside Nature Center, Rock Creek Regional Park, Rockville, MD.

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