There Go Those Dreams Of The Carefree Life Of A Butterfly

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

August each year brings on stage Argiope spider 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 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, and 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

Why do we marvel at Praying Mantis’ Egg Masses?

Coming Soon, Real Soon . . . .

Winged Beauty Butterflies

Mantid egg case photographed by Jeff Zablow
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…

View original post 95 more words

Why do we marvel at Praying Mantis’ Egg Masses?

Mantid egg case photographed by Jeff Zablow
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.

Jeff