Who can resist? June 2014, and there in Doak field, in the field, we discover . . . a Praying Mantis (Mantis Religiosa) egg mass. Butterflies are why we’re out there, but, who can resist stopping for a moment to examine this wonder of wonders?
What is inside? Eggs. What is the outside material? A substance produced by the female, that hardens, and . . . and serves many roles, one of them is it repels birds. It discourages birds from eating the eggs within. Impressive.
When it is 0 degrees F in that field in January 2015, those eggs remain viable. Suspended on this twig, the entire egg mass never comes in contact with the snow that covers the field, again and again throughout the winter.
Spring arrives, and the eggs hatch. The tiny mantids chew their way through the outer covering of the egg mass, and grow, and grow and grow.
A native species? No. The consensus is that they originated in southern Europe, and escaped from horticultural shipments.
What did they do from minute 1? Eat insects. That made them very warmly received, as insects were considered universally undesirable.
Finally, why don’t they vacuum up all the insects in their habitat? Insect numbers are very impressive, and these mantids eat one another aggressively, reducing their own numbers.
Has Jeff ever experienced the grip of their spiny forelegs? Yes, and it hurt. Alot. Now Jeff has respect for their formidable equipment.