Preening Between Kills

Praying Mantis Preening photographed by Jeff Zablow in Traci Meadow, Fayette Township, PA

There were lulls in the butterfly sightings in Traci’s Meadow. Those breaks in the action usually sent me off the trail, into the meadow of golden goldenrod. September 2015, and the late summer killers were out in good numbers: Argiopes (large garden spiders) and Praying Mantises. A day or two before, I joked that Pennsylvania spider webs tasted just like Georgia spider webs. More truth than joke.

This Praying mantis (Mantis Religiosa) was slowly cleaning her mouthparts and forelimbs. She didn’t mind my close approach much. Supported by the sturdy goldenrod stalk, that first meal must have been OK for the moment, but she would soon assume the frozen statue-like position, for as long as it took to capture her next flying, crawling, jumping, wiggling prey.

Jeff the young boy tried to capture many such insects by hand, back then when development in Brooklyn had temporarily stopped at the end of east 58th Street. That invincible thing, that boys feel for that short stretch before adulthood. My report back after trying a hand capture a praying mantis, without harming it? Never try this, for believe it or not, those forelimbs close vise-like, digging its spikes into your fingers, and it hurts like . . . well it really hurts.

Fascinated by insect diversity,


2 thoughts on “Preening Between Kills

  1. Praying Mantis have fascinated me from a very young age. My paternal grandmother was a nature lover and she shared that fascination with me. She taught me to deeply respect nature. How to open my eyes and ears to observation. In the process, nature has taught me life lessons that I would not have gotten any other way.
    You may ask how this relates to your praying mantis tale? I would call it the open hand policy. To approach nature and it’s creatures with an open hand, not trying to capture it contain it. I have held/handled perhaps 50 mantis in my life and not once have I been bitten or felt threatened. When i approach a mantis I approach it slowly, often talking to them in a low gentle voice. I extend one hand with pointer finger out, placing it in front of them, letting them get to know me on their terms. Once they have checked me out I gently press my finger against their legs and thorax and nine times out of ten they will cllimb aboard my finger and onto my sleeve and perch there contentedly as I continue on tending to my gardens. And if they are still on me when I am done with my garden chores I again extend my pointer finger to perch on and take them back to where I found them.

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    • They determine that you have good karma, and accept. Young boys, on the other hand, act like young boys, and get pinched, nipped and bitten, learning then that most have little tolerance for their foolishness.

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