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,