Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Nature Notes: Close Encounters

Mantis on the Prowl

When you look at a mantis, it looks back.

I mean, it really looks back, as aware of you as you are of it. Its body moves slowly, if at all, but its head swivels to follow you, intent, focused, with a fluid motion that matches your own.

When I held out my hand to this one, it did not flinch. It looked repeatedly from my eyes to my hand and back up again, calmly assessing my intentions. I felt as if I were in the presence of a perfectly alien intelligence. And I tell you, it took my breath away.

I first noticed the mantis on the porch. I took progressively closer shots while it tried to ignore me. Eventually, the camera got close enough to be annoying, and the creature began to rock side to side - and to my surprise, to move toward me.

It actually reached out and gently grasped the extended lens with its arms, so I set the camera down in front of it. (Had they been in focus, these would have been fabulous shots.)

I thought maybe it saw itself reflected in the glass, but no. It climbed over the camera and kept coming toward me. At which point I began to wonder how big a bite it could take out of my face and gave it some space.

I was working in the area and I was afraid I might step on the mantis, so I held out my shovel to it. It immediately climbed aboard and stayed there, doing a "king of the world" pose at the tip while I walked it over to the pussy willow, where it climbed off as soon as a branch was within reach of its long, clawed arms.

There it stayed, posing for just a few more closeups, watching me divide the lilies, and doing its daily Tai Chi:

Tai Chi Mantis

And then it was gone. Vanished completely, back to wherever aliens go.

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Thyra said...

Wauw, what a strange creature. Isn't the world a wonderful place. It is like this mantis is regarding you and thinking what to do next. He is not afraid of you. I think he would scare me a little - like those strange plants you showed recently. They made me thing about The Triffids - you know, there was a film long ago with Donald Sutherland based upon a book by? (Ray Bradbury?). It was one of the first sci-fi-films I saw and it was scaring.
Great photos of the mantis. You should show them to him next time he comes along! `)

jo©o said...

ET eat your heart out:
Behaviour: friendly but dignified and in full control.
Isn't it strange that unexpected behaviour scares us more than threatening or even violent behaviour. Actually, PM's aren't known for being kind to their peers, are they? Don't they eat each other, or is that spiders.
Great writing. Time to change careers :-)
Can I please share the verification word with you: puptuti. A language all its own, where one can feel free to attach variable meaning.

MyMaracas said...

Thyra, Thanks for introducing me to Triffids! I had never heard of them, but after checking them out on Wikipedia, I'll be thinking of them often when I'm out among the dodders. LOL

Joco, thanks! They are indeed scary. They eat alive anything they can catch, from harmful insects up to small frogs and, if they're big enough, even hummingbirds. The females sometimes bite the heads off males during mating and have the rest of him for desert. The nymphs will eat each other when they hatch, if nothing tastier presents itself.

And yes ... it is the unexpected behavior that gives one serious pause.

Puptuti ... the word does spark the imagination. Thanks for sharing that. :)

Scott said...

WOW, how cool is that. Amazing shots and amazing story. I'm glad you took such good care of him/her.

Leora said...

Oh, my, a Tai Chi mantis. Vivid photos.

Squirrel said...

These are some cool shots of the mantis.

Carver said...

Wow, these are incredible shots. The mantis is very photogenic but I must say I've never been able to get shots even close to the quality of these.

Daryl said...

WOW .. Day of the Triffords was an old B&W wonderful
horror' movie but not with Donald Sutherland, HE was in the remake of Body Snatchers

Rambling Woods said...

What photos..I swear if an insect can be arrogant, they are. I know what you mean by the way they follow you...They are very skilled predators... good thing they aren't human sized or we would be lunch... Glad you see you back online Vicki..

Iowa Gardening Woman said...

What a beautiful handsome buggie!

Kylee from Our Little Acre said...

This is an absolutely FABULOUS post. I know just what you mean about the mantids looking at you, really looking at you. I love that about them. We have a lot of them here and they might just be my favorite "bug."

mss @ Zanthan Gardens said...

Beautiful! Beautiful! To see the world with fresh eyes and wonder.

Iowa Gardening Woman said...

Two wonderful photos!

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous ... and it makes me shiver a little. We used to (oddly) get them on our deck, in the garden back in NYC. I actually did get over myself once, and pick one of the little guys up. Very gentle!

Arti said...

I have seen a praying mantis but this is new to me... Fabulous shots.. Very close and capturing every detail.. Have a nice day :)

Sallyacious said...

What an amazing moment. Thank you so much for sharing it.