Praying Mantises at Work

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

August each year brings on stage Argiope spiders that build huge webs across meadow trails and Praying Mantises that wait, frozen in place, awaiting the arrival of a flying or crawling or jumping insect. Almost all of us think that butterflies live a life of nectar, beautiful blooms and complete, utter freedom. No perils for them we think, they merely awake each summer morning, and spend the next hours floating from flower to flower, sipping sugar/protein-rich nectar. For those whose lives are enough stressed, the life of a butterfly, caterpillar-chrysalis-adult? Ought to be so much better than work/family/shopping/bills/politics/not-so-nice-people.

This image of a Praying Mantis at Traci’s Kelso Swamp’s edge should end all of those ‘I wish I was a butterfly’ daydreams. Fly within reach of this Mantis, and a butterfly is doomed. I’ve watched praying mantises at work, and they are faster than the eye can follow and they don’t miss. Butterflies that fly in July to September face this threat. If they swerve elegantly away from the Mantis attack, they risk flying, full speed into a nearby Argiope spider or Orb Weaver spider’s web.

These are natural checks and balances that control butterfly and moth population numbers, but finding a Monarch or a Tiger Swallowtail or an American Lady in the grasp of a Mantis is a real downer, for sure.

Traci’s Kelso Swamp, Fayette Township, southwestern Pennsylvania, USA.

Jeff