This page was born 08/09/2011.  Rickubis designed it.  (such as it is.) Last update:  12/08/2013
Images and contents on this page copyright 2002-2011 Richard M. Dashnau  

Here are my other Brazos Bend and/or critter pages:
 ----------------------------------------------------------------                  OR,  FOR OTHER ANIMALS:
Alligators at Brazos Bend State Park Introduction                 Critters at Brazos Bend State Park Page 1
Snakes-nonvenomous 1-------------------------------------------     Critters at Brazos Bend State Park Page 3
Snakes-nonvenomous 2-------------------------------------------------Insects, non-toxic
Snakes-nonvenomous 3------------------------------------------------Spiders
Birds-Waders----Birds-Raptors---------------------------------    Lizards!--Turtles!

That's me with the giant walking stick (06/20/2004). This page features mantids.

September 17, 2005--  The image below (BAD DAY) is actually near the end of a natural act that took about 40 minutes to complete. I'd been monitoring plants around the BBSP VC/NC for the mantids. I'd been watching a few of them and taking photos over the past weeks. This morning, as I was watching a mantis, this drama began.

                                                                                                              BAD DAY
The first image shows the mantis waiting (see IN REPOSE, below). While we're watching, take a closer look at the positioning of the forelegs, especially the long, clawed foot folded up against the claws (see SHEATHED WEAPONS, and FEET IN LINE, below). We'll be looking at those again a bit later. I was taking more shots (see FULL REPOSE SHOT, below), when I notice movement in the background. It was a wasp feeding on the flowers. The mantis noticed it, too, and began to stalk it. 

                       IN REPOSE                                                             SHEATHED WEAPONS                                    FEET IN LINE WITH FORELEGS                                      FULL REPOSE SHOT                                          
The next images (BEGINNING THE HUNT, below) are frames from a VIDEO CLIP  18.7mb. The stalking shows the absolute body control the mantis has as it begins stalking its prey. I remained behind the mantis so I wouldn't scare it, or its potential food.The next image below (see STALKING MANTIS) is a frame from the same clip, showing the end of this brief hunt.  Since the mantis was occupied, I was able to come around and film a better angle. The next image (see TIME TO EAT, below) is a frame from the clip showing the beginning of the meal. The immobilized wasp tried to fight back with its stinger as the mantis began chewing through its abdomen, as shown in the image below (FUTILE COUNTERATTACK) which is a frame from the video clip. Watch the clip closely and you'll see the stinger extend a few times and bounce off the mantid's armored foreleg. 

                   BEGINNING THE HUNT                                              STALKING MANTIS                                                        TIME TO EAT                                                FUTILE COUNTERATTACK                                                                 

The mantis continued chewing through the abdomen as shown below in DISARMING THE WASP, a frame from the video clip, and OR JUST EATING?, cropped from a full size photo.

                    DISARMING THE WASP?                                         ... OR JUST EATING?                                                      STINGER GONE 

While it's eating, notice the amazing range of motion shown by the movements of the mantid's head. Eventually, the rear of the abdomen--with the stinger--fell off (see STINGER GONE, above). While watching the mantis eat, I was also fascinated by the intricate movement of the little feelers around the mantid's mouthparts--they are called "labial palps and maxillary palps" according to my Audubon Field Guide to Insects and Spiders. (see MOUTHPARTS AT WORK, and MOUTHPARTS CLOSER, below). The mantis kept eating, chewing its way up the wasp, from the EMPTY ABDOMEN (below) and working UP THE THORAX (below).
                       OUTHPARTS AT WORK                                          MOUTHPARTS CLOSER                                             EMPTY ABDOMEN                                                  UP THE THORAX
From time to time, the mantis would move its head away from the wasp to work on a single piece. In GET EVERY BIT below, another frame from a video clip, it uses its two sets of palps to move a scrap of shell around to chew off the flesh before dropping it. The palps seem to work sort of like built-in chopsticks. While I was looking over my photos (about 160 or so along with short video clips) I noticed that the "forearm" claws were bare. That is, the front leg was not visible or interfering with their use. That's when I noticed that the "leg" section of the foreleg claw was now folded back out of the way! What a chillingly efficient machine! (see FEET SWUNG AWAY, below). Compare that with the FEET IN LINE picture above. In the picture above, the feet point away from the claw hinge, while below they point towards it.
The mantis then chewed its way through the thorax (see WASP AND MANTIS, OTHER WHITE MEAT, and THE THORAX GOES, below).

                         GET EVERY BIT                                            FEET SWUNG AWAY FROM FORELEGS                               WASP AND MANTIS                                            AH! THE OTHER WHITE MEAT

Finally, all that was left was the wasp's head, which was also devoured. (see JUST THE HEAD IS LEFT, below. A cropped section of the full-sized image--the head nonchalantly held in one claw while the mantis cleans the other--is today's RICKUBISCAM image.) I noticed slight movements of the wasp's antennae as it was being devoured. (see AND NOW THE HEAD, and GOODBYE, WASP!, below) This was probably reflex activity, but still, I wonder. Would the wasp's eyes still be feeding information to its brain? Would the wasp be watching itself being eaten a bit at a time? Then would that finally stop when the mantis devoured its brain...and the rest of the wasp's head? How's that for a creepy thought?  This was one of those lucky opportunities, and some of my pictures actually came out well! 

                      THE THORAX GOES                                             JUST THE HEAD IS LEFT                                      AND NOW THE HEAD GOES                                            GOODBYE, WASP!

August 21, 2005--  Since I saw the small praying mantids a few weekends ago (see July 24 below), I've been looking for them in the same bushes. I had no luck until today. I almost missed it, but was able to recognize the "elbow"--which I think is the joint between the "lower coxa" and the "femur"--of a mantis hidden among the leaves. I slowly moved in and took a few pictures. The mantis, almost perfectly hidden, is today's Rickubiscam photo.
I believe many people are fascinated by this insect and its elegant form. The first image below (HANGING AROUND FOR A MEAL) shows the entire mantis among the leaves. I was a bit surprised at the size of this mantis, considering the small size of the ones I saw a few weekends ago. To give some scale, I slowly placed my hand under the mantis and very carefully moved it near the insect. The next image (WAS THAT THERE BEFORE?, below) shows it near my hand. Pretty big, eh? The next image is a closeup of the mantid's attack and defence system. (see DEADLY SPIKES, below) The mantis does, of course use these claws (specifically the two segments are the "tibia"--near the end--and the "femur" nearer the body.) for attacking its prey; but I know from personal experience that they will also use their forelegs for defense (one got me when I was younger).
I moved my hand a little more, and the mantis (still young, judging by the underdeveloped wings) climbed onto my hand! The next image shows it resting comfortably there.(see THUMB BIG INSECT, below).

                                                                                                  HANGING AROUND FOR A MEAL                               WAS THAT THERE BEFORE?                                            DEADLY SPIKES              


While I was enjoying this visit, I was able to shoot a short video clip(2.7mb). the next image (MANTIS ON HAND, below) shows a frame from this clip which shows it jumping off my hand.
Then I remembered that I have a folding ruler. I coaxed the mantis onto it just one time, and was able to shoot another short movie clip(2.7mb) as it went off in peace. The last image (I'M PRETTY BIG, RIGHT?, below) is a frame from that clip. This *immature* mantis is almost 3 inches long!

                           MANTIS ON MY HAND!                                                       I'M PRETTY BIG, RIGHT?
                      SHORT VIDEO CLIP O1 2.7mb                                               SHORT VIDEO CLIP O2 2.7mb
I did a little research ( in my Audubon Field Guide to Insects and Spiders, and some on the internet of course), and discovered that our big mantids are not native to the U.S.!
This one is probably a European Mantis (Mantis Religiosa), because it has "black spots underneath its fore coxa". The spots are not visible here, but in an earlier part of one of the clips, I can see the spots. According to the Audubon book, these were "accidentally introduced in 1899 on nursery stock from southern Europe.
I can't imagine living here and NOT being able to encounter a beautiful mantis like this one.
Mantids (I see this as a plural for "mantis") are ravenous predators and evidently will attack and eat almost anything--including hummingbirds.  An earlier version of the Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine (last year sometime...maybe) featured an excellent photo of a mantis which had caught a hummingbird. A search of the internet brought to light some links which evidently show that this is not impossible. Imagine that! A bird-eating insect living here in the U.S.!
The links:   Link 1  Link 2  Link 3

July 24, 2005--  It's amazing how much you can see right around the Visitor's Center (Nature Center) at Brazos Bend State Park if you just look. Chuck and I were walking around the building, looking for spiders and insects. Chuck pointed out a small Praying Mantis on the wall which was almost the same color as the paint. He got it to walk onto a twig, and from there I got it to jump on my hand. It moved too quickly for a picture, and it ran up my arm, my neck, and onto the top of my hat. I took my hat off and shot the picture just below.
                                                                                                  TAPPING ON MY LID
I've always thought Mantids were fascinating. A further search of some plants in the garden revealed a couple more of these insects. I took a few pictures on the 24th, and was able to find a mantis to shoot the next weekend, on July 31st. The pictures below show this very attractive creature.

                         THE PREDATOR                                               CLEANING HIS EQUIPMENT                                       CHECK THESE WEAPONS!                                   ALERT FOR DANGER OR PREY

                   CAN'T SEE ME!

The last one (with my fingers) shows how small the Praying Mantis was. This size, as well as no visible developed wings show this as an immature specimen. Isn't that camouflage amazing?

If you'd like to know more about the park follow these links:

Brazos Bend State Park   The main page.

Brazos Bend State Park Volunteer's Page  The volunteer's main page.

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