Miomantis is a large genus of small, delicately built praying mantids, with about 75 species known from across Africa. Females, like this individual, are usually short winged, while males are fully winged and are excellent fliers.
Gorongosa National Park is heaven for praying mantids – nowhere else in the world have I seen so many different species or similarly high abundance of these insects. This appears to be a good indicator of the overall condition of this ecosystem, with almost unlimited availability of prey. Usually this means grasshoppers and other insects, but occasionally arachnids and even small lizards fall prey to some of the mantids.
Last night I was walking along a path in the camp and noticed a small praying mantis of the genus Miomantis getting ready to catch a fat green spider that was beginning to spin a web by one of the lights that illuminated the pathway. These mantids are no longer than a half of your pinky finger and delicate in their built, and usually feed only on small flying insects. But this female was clearly very hungry. She struck the spider and caught it in her raptorial front legs. “Good for you”, I thought, “this will be enough food to produce several clutches of eggs.”
This poor mantis clearly overestimated her hunting abilities – the spider she had caught not only managed to escape her grip, but also killed and eventually ate most of her.
I decided to take a photo of this feat and ran to get my camera. But when I came back I saw that the situation had turned tragic for the huntress – the spider had managed to free itself from her clutches, bit her, and was quickly spinning strands of silk around her. The spider was slightly injured, too, as evidenced by droplets of hemolymph oozing from several points on its body but, in the end, it won fair and square.
A time-lapse video of a male Chinese mantis (Tenodera parasinensis) undergoing his final molt. I recorded it last night over the period of 5:35 hours; this movie contains 494 individual frames taken with Canon 6D.
Note: If the quality of the video clip embedded below is poor, click here to see the uncompressed video.
A couple of months ago tiny Chinese mantids overran my house, having hatched unexpectedly from an ootheca that was supposed to stay dormant until spring. Last night the first female of the batch successfully molted into adulthood (the first male had his imaginal molt three days earlier), thus completing the cycle that started when I adopted “Florimonde”, an old Chinese mantis that had flown into a friend’s house in Cambridge last fall.
Insect molts are one of the most amazing spectacles of the natural world and I don’t think I will ever tire of watching these incredible transformations. And although I didn’t get much sleep last night (she did not begin her molt until 6 AM), it was definitely worth it.
The complete developmental cycle of Chinese mantis (Tenodera parasinensis) – it began on December 4th, 2012 and ended with the final molt on February 17th, 2013.
A female Chinese mantis expanding her wings after the final (imaginal) molt.