By Joe Reynolds
NY Harbor Nature
Have you checked any meadows lately? Surprise, you might find a small green triangle face with large eyes looking at you.
Praying mantises are active around New York Harbor during the summer and early fall. I found a few the other day perched atop some coneflowers in my yard.
This insect is easily recognized by the way it often sits motionless atop a plant stem waiting for a meal. They love to eat small insects, including butterflies and moths, but will also try to catch flies, crickets, grasshoppers, and even small birds, mice, and tree frogs. These little critters have no fear, and are tough, fearsome hunters. A Praying mantids has large front legs that are highly mobile and armed with rows of sharp spins for quickly impaling its next victim. A green body also helps to camouflage the little insect to make it easy for a mantis to hunt for prey during the day.
But these little critters don't live long. The typical lifespan of a praying mantis is six months, maybe a year if one is lucky. This means most of their lifespan is devoted to eating and reproducing as quickly as possible over the summer and fall.
Praying mantises have an interesting way to mate, which the male may or may not survive. Often the female mantis eats the head of the male. After mating she feeds on the rest of male’s body to have energy to create eggs. The female mantis usually dies after laying eggs.
But before she goes, up to 400 eggs will be laid by a single female mantis just before winter. Eggs are laid on a firm leaf or stem with a liquid that hardens to be a protective sac structure known as ootheca, which is able to survive winter weather. Come mid-spring as temperatures warm, nymphs will hatch from egg cases.
It's not an easy life being a young Praying mantis. Nymphs are vulnerable as prey to large predators including bats, birds and spiders. Not all nymphs survive this stage. Fortunately, they do get bigger quickly. The molting process ends at the beginning of summer, when the insect has grown to be a mature adult. Full-grown mantises are normally between 1 to 6 inches in length.
Praying mantises get their common name for their upright position, a stance that makes them seem to be praying. But these little green insects do more than quietly mediate. A single Praying mantis helps to organically keep harmful garden pests in check and to maintain ecological balance in nature around New York Harbor. Have you thanked a Praying mantis today!
STOP THE WILLIAMS FRACKED GAS PIPELINE THROUGH NY HARBOR!
MY TOP 5 FAVORITE BOOKS ABOUT NY HARBOR
1. Field Guide to the Neighborhood Birds of New York City by Leslie Day
2.Heartbeats in the Muck by John Waldman
3. The Fisheries of Raritan Bay by Clyde L. MacKenzie Jr.
4. Waterfront: A Walk Around Manhattan by Phillip Lopate
5. The Bottom of the Harbor by Joseph Mitchell