Today we have a couple of praying mantises which I photographed back in September. It is interesting because, they have very different colors, one is tan/orange, the other green, and yet, both look like leaves.
The praying mantis is one of the most fascinating insects. There are many reasons for that.
It is the only insect capable of turning its head. This ability coupled with an excellent vision makes it the only insect with which we can feel that we have eye contact.
My fascination for this insect is nothing new. As a teenager growing up in the Alps mountains, I remember capturing some and keeping them in a big jar to observe their behavior. I would feed them crickets or grass hoppers. I eventually figured out that the one I had captured was a female. So, I decided to look for a male to see if they would mate. And this is exactly what happened. But, to my surprise, the next morning I found the female holding the male in its folded arms, and feeding on him. I was amazed by this behavior. Of course since then I learned that this is actually a common behavior among many other insects and arachnids.
As I said above, the praying mantis has excellent vision. How excellent you might ask.
Well for one, like us, they have stereo vision. And, also just like us, their eyes have a fovea, a small area which has a greater visual acuity. 10,000 photoreceptor cells and the wide spacing of their eyes result in both wide binocular vision and precise stereoscopic vision at close range. But an excellent vision really is only one of the many attributes which make the praying mantis such an effective hunter. And it is an ambitious one too. For instance, I once read that it also will catch and eat hummingbirds. I was skeptical, but a quick search revealed this to to be true and recorded on videos such as this one.
Well this video only shows the praying mantis catching the hummingbird, but there are some which show you the bird partly eaten too. You can search for them if that interests you.
A couple more interesting facts, the second praying mantis in my pictures has a curled up abdomen. I was wondering why. I found this article which explains that this is a male calling posture exhibited by virgin females who are ready for mating. Strangely enough, as indicated, only virgin females will do this. So, males will not be attracted to mated females.
The praying mantis is able to do acrobatic jumps. This video shows and explains how they can achieve this feat.