Perplexities – What’s in Front of You?

What’s in front of you that you aren’t seeing?

“The hardest thing to see is what is in front of your eyes.” ~Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Anyone who has read my blog for any length of time will know that I am always on the lookout for Praying Mantis pods. I usually find a few in the fields and forests in the winter months.

Imagine my surprise when I planted my tomatoes and found a surprise on one of the cages. Right in my back yard, in plain sight, was a perfect Praying Mantis pod. How did I not see it?

Photo Challenge – Lime Green

Do you see her? She is lime green and blends in perfectly with the bush she rests upon. I found her by following the sound of winged distress. An urgent flapping outdoors alerted me that a bird of some type was in crisis. I peered into the bush where the noise emanated from and saw a gigantic praying mantis in the midst of devouring a cicada. Surprised, I jumped back and in doing so interrupted the feast. The cicada fell to the ground and the mantis moved to a new branch. She’s a beauty, lime green, very large, and burdened with a swollen abdomen that predicts she will soon produce an egg case.

I gently took her indoors to show my cat. He is a scaredy-cat so I knew the mantis was not in jeopardy.

Just as I thought, the encounter was a stand-off, but I did get to see a sight unique to me; the mantis unfurled her wings and put on a very good display of aggression. She took on the stance of a boxer, ready to bop the inquisitive nose of Hans.

I’m torn now over having these amazing creatures living in my gardens. In the past, I delighted in finding one or more egg cases in my yard, but Praying Mantis are voracious insects; I’ve even heard horrible rumors that they can capture hummingbirds. I let her go back into the gardens, far away from any nectar-producing plants the hummers visit.

The mantis is part of Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge/Lime or Light Green.

Peculiarities – Cat Snack

Sunday, I was getting myself ready to go to church and enjoy the Easter cantata, when I noticed my cat behaving oddly. He was crouched near my fireplace, intently studying something on the floor. I watched his odd behavior for a moment or two, then noticed, whatever he was watching, he was also eating. The clue is the small speck of beige on the big blue pillow.

Did you guess? Yes! My praying mantis pod hatched on Palm Sunday.

I was lucky to notice before I left for church and took the pod outdoors to my porch. At this point in time, it seems only a couple dozen or so of the mantis babies escaped the cat and are roaming the house. I have let these mantis go about their business on my walls all day, and they have darkened up in color, and most seem to be okay. Since I’m not squeamish about non-biting, benign insects, I will wait until tomorrow and then give them a ride outside on a sheet of paper. To try and handle their fragile bodies would crush them.

Most of the remaining mantis babies were born outdoors on the back porch. Thankfully, the weather has shifted, and the coming week is going to be warm and without heavy rains. They have a good chance to survive if they can find smaller insects to consume. If not, they will find each other, and it will be a matter of survival of the fittest.

By the time I arrived home from church, most of the mantis babies seemed to have disappeared. I’m hoping they are in the yard already. I know that their small size allows them to slip through the mesh of the screening.

There are still a few lingering on the pussy willow branches, but by tomorrow they will probably have found their way into the great outdoors.

Peculiarities – The Mantis Whisperer

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I spotted him first atop the vitex tree.

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He let me get close…closer…closest…

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…and even seemed to strike a few interesting poses.

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When I offered him my thumb, he climbed aboard…

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…and seemed quite amused when I placed him on a bright zinnia as a backdrop for a photograph. Did I say I love praying mantis? I do. ūüėÄ

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Phascination & Painting – Praying Mantis Pods

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My husband and I spent the good part of an hour this past winter in search of a praying mantis pod. Praying Mantis are a terrific predatory bug for keeping garden pests in check. Unfortunately, they cannot discriminate between a bad bug/good bug, and will eat caterpillars, butterflies and ladybugs too. There have even been instances, captured on video, of praying mantis devouring toads, frogs, small snakes, juvenile rodents and other small creatures.

We never found a pod this year, and I thought…’Well, maybe it is meant to be…the butterflies will be safer this year.’ Imagine my surprise to find a pod, as in the past, quite close, hidden in my holly bush.

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I have mixed feelings about the praying mantis. I want a mantis in my vegetable garden to keep cabbage moths and other destructive bugs at bay, but I don’t want to lose any beneficial or beautiful creatures to their powerful forelegs and mandibles. Praying mantis in the garden are definitely a mixed blessing.

This month’s Floral Plant Parade Challenge at WetCanvas is a combination work of art with the subject matter of any flower with a butterfly included. Plant Parade Challenge – May 2015

Welcome to the Plant Parade for May, 2015, or a ‘Symphony of Colors’!!

With Spring showing off the different flowers, a remarkable sight begins grabbing our attention!! We notice that the flowers are not the only attraction, but small insects that have brilliant and colorful wings start ‘strutting’ their stuff!! They put on a grand show of flitting and swirling around the flowers and amaze us with their beauty!! How can there be so many unique shapes of the Butterflies? But, watch, when they land on a flower, we have stereo colors. . .both are competing for our attention! But, wait, competing or becoming one? A flower alone is sometimes breathtaking, but with a Butterfly so brilliant with its own remarkable markings, wow, what a kaleidoscope of colors!!

This month we are going to paint brilliant flowers with equally brilliant Butterflies attached to them. We will call it a “Symphony of Colors”!!

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Floral Plant Parade reference photograph courtesy of WetCanvas Library and DominicM

Peculiarities & Phascination – The Intruder

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This week I was surprised by an uninvited guest in my home. A brilliant green praying mantis, measuring about an inch and a quarter, somehow found its way into the house. Even though this amazing bug has outstanding predator qualities, and I am sometimes bothered indoors by the occasional mosquito, spider or stink bug, I knew he belonged outside.

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A good way to remove beneficial bugs from your home without harming them is to use a glass and a sturdy piece of paper. Place the glass over the insect and slide the paper between the bug and the wall. Voila…Captured! I try to release any bug that is an asset to a garden or to man into the garden.

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The mantis exploring his new home on an Echinacea flower.

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Pleasure – Update/Praying Mantis

“Look Nanny!” My grandson said, “A praying mantis.” Sure enough on the peeling wrought iron of the porch railing strolled a lime green baby mantis. It has to be one of my babies hatched in the kitchen. I feel so uplifted. The ones I put on the weeping cypress by my front porch were the babies I had to gather off of the ceiling and the wall…agile escapees from their glass home. I was afraid as I picked each one up that my clumsy fingers were crushing the life out of them. It is so uplifting to see that at least one survived…and where there is one, there are bound to be more. The mantis has tripled, maybe quadrupled in size, and instead of being¬†translucent¬†is a brilliant green. I’ll post more photos as I run across them in the yard.

Problem-Solving – Predator Bugs

Praying Mantis are a favorite of mine. They are unique and interesting in appearance. I have often carried praying mantis specimens around my yard and posed them on garden blossoms for photographs. What I love most though, is how efficiently they rid my garden of unwanted pest insects.

This past Autumn, two female praying mantises laid egg cases near my back window. I also was lucky enough to find a few pods in the fields near my home. Of course, I transported these lucky finds home. Two of these have been kept on my windowsill in a decanter. Yesterday the egg cases hatched.

I don’t know¬†exactly when the baby mantids¬†began to emerge, but a hundred or more were born within a matter of an hour¬†or two. Most stayed on, or near, the decanter, but several escaped into the house. After I took¬†most into the garden, I spent a good half hour capturing as many as possible from the area¬†near my kitchen sink. This morning, I noticed a few strays still walking on my ceiling.

I think the outdoor pods hatched a day or two before those kept indoors. The babies I spotted in the garden are bigger, deeper in color, and quicker in movement than their newly hatched neighbors.

I shook several of the baby mantids out of of the decanter into my square foot gardens. I want to garden organically, and the mantis will help with pest control. Right now, aphids and other small insects will be their major food source, but in a few short weeks, no insect will be safe from the powerful arms and jaws of the juvenile and adult mantids.

Here are a few walking about the patio, trying to find a new place to hide. I am sure, as they grow, I will find them and pose a few for photographs. I’ll keep their progress updated here on the blog.