Earlier today Kristin was reading on the couch, when she noticed a small insect crawling up the wall. “It is either a very small mantis or an assassin bug”, she opined, exhibiting some pretty good entomological expertise. I was not expecting to see either but, sure enough, it was a small praying mantis. Then we noticed one more, and about fifty additional ones, as they kept escaping from a container that held their mother, a Chinese mantis (Tenodera parasinensis) (the very individual that I featured in an earlier post about mantis ears.) I knew she had laid some eggs, but these were not supposed to hatch until spring! Soon the entire household, dogs included, were busy trying to corral tiny, jumpy insects that overran the room.
They are now safely sequestered in several containers, and munching on fruit flies. It is interesting that, as it became evident to me today, this species does not require a winter diapause in order to hatch. Eggs of another common introduced species, the European mantis (Mantis religiosa), must spend several weeks in freezing weather in order to develop and hatch, which also limits this species’ distribution to areas that have a clearly pronounced, cold winter. But the Chinese mantis can colonize areas that either have or don’t have winter, and I suspect that in the coming decades this species is going to outcompete the European mantis in places where they now co-occur.
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We’ve got the same thing with wheel bugs this year, except they are staying in their cage. I didn’t think they’d hatch out, but they have and are walking about with their bright red abdomens looking like a field full of deer hunters viewed from above. They are also cannibalistic, and will feed on nymphs as they emerge from the eggs.