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Posts Tagged ‘Praying Mantis’

Yes, two different subjects. Remember that very young praying mantis I had shared a few posts ago? She was hanging out on my kitchen window screen, looking just adorable, as all babies do. Well, I went out my kitchen/back porch door the other day, and who do you think was there waiting for me? That little mantis all grown up. Can I be sure it’s the same one? Possibly not, but she’s the right color and in the same area as the youngster.

Mantises are very brave creatures. They don’t run when giants approach. I spoke to her very softly, and came down on my knees to take her photo, making no fast moves. As you can see, she remained very calm, and did not assume her praying, pre-attack position. She cocked her head this way and that as I spoke to her, having no need to defend herself. They are such fascinating insects, so alien looking, and immensely powerful in their ability to catch their prey. They can take on small birds and frogs, but are generally most beneficial in the garden where they eat pests. (I say “she”, by the way, because females are longer than males, and she is the greater length.)

And in other news, book news, here are two excellent reads:

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton – With an exquisite use of the language, Kate Morton tells a tale that spans multiple generations over a century, from the early 1900’s to 2005. It is at once a mystery of family origins, but carefully weaves in loss, duplicity, family dysfunction, even a murder, and a real sense of place in Brisbane, Australia, and London and Cornwall in the UK. It begins with the question as to why a 4-year-old child has been abandoned and sits alone on a wharf in Brisbane with a small, white suitcase. There is not a chapter doesn’t end in a real page turner and new revelation. It is not the shortest book I’ve read, but once you begin, you’ll be so invested, you won’t even notice. It’s a great piece of historical fiction. And fairy tales … did I mention there is an Authoress who writes fairy tales?

Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty (You may know her from Big, Little Lies) is also a mystery, but takes place in current day. It is a character study of sorts of three families whose lives intertwine over just a few days, beginning with the lead up to “The Day of the Barbecue”. Moriarty keeps you on the edge of your seat as you plunge forward wondering what this tragedy could possibly be, and I assure you, it’s one you will never expect.

The balance of the book brings you deeper into the minds of those involved, until you find a quietly stated but chilling conclusion at the end. An excellent read.

What I found interesting on a personal note is that I chose both books on the recommendations of two friends, each of whom has a good idea of my reading tastes. And each book is by an Australian author, and takes place in Australia, the home of Ethicool, the publisher of my forthcoming book. No coincidences, I say.

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This past June was the hottest on record in the United States. July saw the issuance of multiple tornado warnings in my state, one specifically for my town and the surrounding areas. Never in my life here in Jersey, have I ever had to seriously sequester myself and animals in either the basement or lowest interior space in the house (my chosen option), in response to serious tornado warnings. And they did hit, too, just, fortunately for me, not here.

But let’s look on the bright side, because there always is one.

One of two dwarf red maples on the property, this one is more a deep bronze than a shade of red. Unless, of course, you’re a little newbie sprout. This close-up doesn’t tell you how tiny the new leaves are in comparison to the whole, which is huge. But it might tell you why it brings a smile every time I look at it.

One morning, I looked out my kitchen window and saw something indiscernible in between two of the ornamental grasses out back. It looked like a face. Oh …. it WAS a face. The face of a very young (and adorable) deer holding very still but just about ready to chow down on a hosta. I went down the porch stairs to gently shoo her away. Maybe only 4-5 months old, she easily cleared the nearly 4′ garden gate. As I returned, I saw she had been on my porch, and had eaten the front half of the impatiens above and a few other potted plants. It’s discouraging, but that little wide-eyed face holding soooo still, trying to be invisible …

For some reason, this pretty pair was spared, and is now starting to bloom.

There are snowball hydrangeas all over this property. They bloom snow white, and are now in their green phase, to turn a stunning rust as the summer wears on, and it becomes cooler.

Hello, little fella. This very young praying mantis greeted me one morning on a kitchen window screen. Soon after, he disappeared. But he hadn’t gone very far, I later discovered. It was turning out to be a very hot afternoon, but I managed to find myself a little time to sit on the back porch and read while there was still some shade nearest the house. And there he was. Not far from me on the decking, in the very hot, bright sun.

I thought to make his way a little easier by moving him into the shade. I offered him a large hydrangea leaf to climb on, as I didn’t want to handle and frighten him. He very calmly walked right over the leaf, and into the shadow of the railing. “Thanks, ma’am, but I’ve got this,” I imagined he said as he found his own shade. And then over the next half hour or so, he slowly made his way across the length of the porch and disappeared.

All I could think of was that that must be what `biological imperative’ means. He knew where he was going and what he had to do, because at the other end of the porch is where I often see adult green praying mantises, like the one next to Pumpkin in a photo from a few years ago.

I know for myself, and most everyone I know, that the last year and change has had a lingering impact in one way or another. And yet, we find, there are still always bright spots. Hope you keep finding yours.

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Finally! Work subsided sufficiently that my blogging brain returned and I knew what I was going to write for a post as soon as I got the chance. But in the meantime, something else happened.

 

In the afternoon, the western sun bathes my office and upstairs bedrooms in warmth and light. Great in cooler weather, not so much in the summer. Anyway, about noon or so each day I go upstairs and open all the windows facing that way so as to soak up as much heat as possible to stave off the chill of the cooler autumn evenings and nights. In the back bedroom, Claude was soaking up that sun on top of a piece of furniture, too, but seemingly oblivious to the fact that he was being closely watched!

Then he realized … it moved! As I moved with my camera, the praying mantis got into prayer/attack position and rotated his head to keep an eye on me. Claude was interested only when he moved, which I suspect has something to do with an animal’s depth perception or ability to comprehend something on the other side of both screen and glass.

These creatures are so bizarre looking, but so fascinating. If they are symbols of good luck, which has been said to me, then I ought to be in for one big bucket-o-luck anytime soon!

Claude, below, not quite knowing what to make of this slow-moving creature. (I’ll get to that other post real soon. This was too good to pass up!)

 

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As I opened my front door this morning, I noticed a visitor between the door and the porch railing. At first I didn’t see him as he was camouflaged against the naturally weathered wood of the decking. He turned to look at me.

“Never mind,” I said. “You keep going and I’ll water the plants a little later. No rush.”

He took that quite literally. It was about an hour or so later that he finally made it to this side of the railing. I knew if I’d gone out when I planned, he would have been stampeded by next door’s two cats who would be eager to see me. The plants could wait.

My neighbor came over to gift me with three gorgeous peppers from her garden, and then, having gotten my camera, we admired the mantis. While we were talking, Pumpkin, one of the cats, came over to see me, brushing by the praying mantis without even seeing him. The poor guy was in total defensive position, front legs straight out and apart and trembling all over. What amazes me about praying mantises is that they don’t get out of harm’s way; they face it head on. Considering their size, that’s pretty brave.

After being petted, Pumpkin went back to lie in the sun and the mantis continued to watch me. I sent him good energy and assured him he had nothing to be concerned about. He soon tucked himself under the railing and began stalking some insect, his front legs in the prayer position, and moving so slowly it was barely perceptible. I went around to the outside of the porch for another photo. He turned that triangular head to me and resumed the defensive position.

“Bring it on,” he said.

“Only with my camera, little dude,” I replied. So after a couple shots I turned away and so did he. I’m sure he calmed down and resumed his hunt.

Here’s why the praying mantis is so fascinating –

  • The strike for their food happens in 1/20th of a second. You only see a brief blur.
  • They have exceptionally keen eyesight and can rotate their heads 180˚!
  • They catch and hold their prey with their sharply serrated front legs and usually eat them head first
  • They are carnivores, and in addition to a staple diet of insects, also eat small frogs, lizards and even small birds
  • There are 1800 species of praying mantids around the world; 20 of them live in North America
  • They are very beneficial in that they keep the insect population down, so if you see one, admire, appreciate, and leave him there.

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Even before the leaves surrender their greens for red and gold, there are other changes afoot – creatures prepare for the coming winter, some rallying in their final efforts to survive before their lives slowly wind down to a natural end.

Each year in this house I watch an orb-weaving spider weave a large and complex web over the top half of a kitchen window.

It doesn’t seem a very auspicious spot, as her prey would need to be flying through the web to the glass not even a half inch behind. Yet each year, through some species memory I can’t possibly understand, a spider builds her web here. She catches an occasional small insect, and each night rebuilds her web. With temperatures becoming chillier and less prey about, she becomes weaker from lack of food. With less silk to spin, her web becomes less detailed until at last, the strands are a broken tangle of fine thread, a shadow of her once articulated masterpiece. And then she is gone.

I found myself watching her, in quiet awe of her determination to survive in spite of the reality of colder nights and imminent death. Some lesson in life for me, no doubt.

Perhaps a week or so after the spider’s web had disappeared, a seemingly small monster – from this side of the glass – cast a large shadow in the same window. A Chinese praying mantis. Where had he come from? Last year, a green praying mantis hung out all season on or around my office window, where we had several conversations and a few photo shoots. But I’d never seen the larger and brown Chinese mantis since I’ve lived here. He did his monster shadow for the morning, and then flew about my front and side porches in the awkward way they do, like a helicopter with a broken blade. No doubt he was scouting out a last meal as well. He, too, soon disappeared.

As we moved into late October, anticipating Halloween, temperatures dropped, moisture gathered and froze, and suffocated the clinging leaves, dropping trees like so many sticks.

It was unexpectedly beautiful, but deadly, and the sudden snowstorm rolled long nights over the state, especially in my area. Halloween evening arrived and bundled children with chilled parents came from other towns to ours; they still had no power, but happily, here we all had our porch lights on, tombstones eerily lit, and plenty of candy.

I took a drive around my area the following day, where the severity of the damage was evident. It looked like a war zone. Barricades and closed roads were everywhere, but so much worse was the devastation of the trees. Magnificent elders had split and cracked like twigs, graceful limbs lay on the ground. It was heartbreaking.

And then, another sign of determination – the leaf which will not fall.

Many of the taller shrubs and a fair amount of surrounding trees still have quite a bit of their leaves. This tree? Only one stubborn leaf remains. I wonder did he win a contest this year with some other now-fallen leaf who could finally hold on no longer. Or is he a tall scout, updating the lower shrubbery on how advances the autumn. Or perhaps he’s simply the last man standing.

And then this morning … a thick autumn fog. It couldn’t have looked more lovely, an invitation to be lost for just a little while. I could have stayed until the sun shone through. But such is not my life.

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As the sun and the earth dance through the Equinox, summer exhales and shares her final gifts.

LastRose2
The last perfect rose of summer blooms, defying the empty, withering stalks of Hosta and drying grass.

Grasses2

The tall grasses in the backyard bloom in bursts of sunlit wheat.

MantisOnWindow2

The praying mantis I’ve been getting to know, mated, and the next day climbed high up on my office window. That evening she captured and devoured a large moth in the same spot, her last meal. Thereafter, she remained low, near the water spout. I watched, as each day, she became a paler brown and atrophied before my eyes. I thought to take one last picture of her, but could not be so disrespectful as to photograph her as her tiny life faded. In 3 days she was gone, her work on earth completed.

LastPetunias2

Despite the temperatures already dipping into the 40’s and 50’s at night, my potted petunias and torenia continue to glow in the afternoon sun, holding their beauty `til the end.

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PrayingMantis-OnStep

This morning as I opened windows and doors for the wonderful fresh air, I noticed a small-ish bright green fellow (or lady) on the top of my side porch stairs. It was clearly a young praying mantis, so I very quietly went to check her out. She is about 3″ long, which makes her still a youngster, and in the way that only a praying mantis can do, she rotated her head, watching my every move as I viewed her from every angle without getting too close as to disturb her. Time to get the camera!

PrayingMantis-PumpkinBy the time I’d come back out, Pumpkin, the orange cat next door, was coming over to say hello and see what was happening, and was now right next to the praying mantis. I figured the mantis was a goner, but Pumpkin was totally oblivious to her presence. What was more amazing was that the mantis, while watching Pumpkin’s every move, (she’s actually looking right at him in this photo), only made one tiny move herself. It was quite easy to catch a couple photos after which I quickly lured Pumpkin to my back door and away from the mantis.

Now I know we’re not talking suicide wish here, but I have to imagine there is a sort of instinctual or inbred mantis bravery in maintaining one’s position in the face of a “monster” so much larger. I also understand the concept of camouflage in nature, but have to wonder … does a young praying mantis not yet know that they’re not exactly blending in?

So after Pumpkin had gotten bored and had exited the porch via the back steps, I switched to close-up mode and returned to snap a few more shots of my very photogenic subject.

PrayingMantis

p.s. I just checked, and sunning herself on the side of the house is the now almost glowing, bright green praying mantis . I expect looking for a more suitably sized meal than Pumpkin is on her agenda.

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