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Posts Tagged ‘mantis’

If you were to pit a mantis against a spider, which one would have the advantage? I thought it would be the mantis, but that was clearly not the case this past week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. This spider had a large web stretched over a path on which I was walking, and I guess the mantis was unlucky enough to get stuck in its sticky strands as it was moving through the air.

mantis versus spider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I came upon this little praying mantis during a recent trip to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I couldn’t decide if it was the predator or the prey. Although the mantis seemed to be at least partially trapped in a spider’s web, the spider no longer seemed to be present. In addition, the mantis appeared to be trying to work its way out of the web.

There is definitely a story here, but I can’t figure out for sure what it is. You’ll have to choose an ending to the story on your own.

praying mantis

 

praying mantis

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some movement in the leaves of a tree at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge caught my eye on Friday afternoon. I thought it might be a squirrel, but it turned out to be a pretty large praying mantis. There is entire order of mantises (Mantodea) that includes over 2400 species, according to Wikipedia, so I hope that you can forgive me for not identifying the specific species of this praying mantis.

I love how well its shape and color help it to blend in with its surroundings—if it hadn’t moved, I am pretty sure that I would never have noticed it.

praying mantis

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spotted this Praying Mantis on Saturday at Huntley Meadows Park as it was crawling about on a nesting box for birds in one of the remote areas of the park. I am pretty confident that the nesting box, which was used by Tree Swallows earlier in the year, was no longer in active use—otherwise the mantis probably would not have survived for long. I was struck by the size of the insect, which seemed to be about six inches (15 cm) in length.

I think this may be a Mantis religiosa, one of the more common types of mantises, though Wikipedia notes that there are over 2400 species worldwide, so I could easily be incorrect in my identification.

Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Praying mantises blend in so well with their surroundings that it is extremely rare for me to see one. This past weekend I spotted one as I was scanning the undergrowth while I was walking along the boardwalk in my local marsh.

The challenge for me was to figure out how to get a good shot of the praying mantis, which was sitting among some green leaves just about level with the boardwalk itself. I first tried shooting from directly above the insect, but I didn’t like the results very much, because I could not seem to make the praying mantis stand out from the background.

The second basic approach that I tried was to shoot at eye level with the insect. This produced some good results, like the second photo below, because I was able to capture a lot of details of the mantis and the shadows add interest to the shot.

I got my favorite image, the first one, when I shot from below the level of the insect, by hanging over the edge of the boardwalk. Framing the shot was a bit tricky because I had to place myself in the middle of the vegetation without disturbing the praying mantis (you should never disturb an insect when it is praying). I also had to shoot from an awkward angle in which it was difficult to steady the camera, so many of my shots were blurry.

Why is the first image my favorite? I like the simplicity of the color palette in the image−mostly green and black—and the pose of the praying mantis staring into the shadows from the edge of the leaf, which has wonderful details. (If you click on the image you can see a higher resolution view, which includes some details of insect’s head.)

praying2_blogpraying1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed something fly past me and land on a nearby leaf. At first I thought it was a big dragonfly (my peripheral vision is not that great), but closer examination revealed that it was a praying mantis.

Earlier in the summer I spotted my first praying mantis “in the wild,” but it moved away as I was getting my camera ready—I was hoping to avoid the same fate this time around. As I tried to frame a shot, I realized that praying mantises are not easy to shoot. Their bodies are so long and skinny that it’s hard to fit them into a photo, especially when there is heavy vegetation that prevents an unobstructed view. I finally managed to find a narrow visual pathway through the branches that resulted in this shot.

It almost looks like the praying mantis is impatiently posing for me, with its tilted head and inquisitive facial expression. The eyes are wonderful too—they seem to be expressive. The orange tones of the leaves in both the foreground and the background help to give this portrait of a praying mantis an autumnal feel.

Praying mantis in the fall

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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