Oh, you’re still here?

Chinese mantis Tenodera sinensis looking shockedSorry, more mantids, but you can’t watch the life cycle of several local individuals, including hundreds if not thousands of photos (I have not tallied them up yet, but mind you, these are the keepers) and not want to maintain updates.

First off, if you’re going to have an interest in entomology, it seems prudent to check several sources for information, as well as to keep checking sources even when you think you know what’s going on. I’ve been identifying the Chinese mantids under the scientific name of Tenodera aridifolia sinensis for the past couple of years, to suddenly find (just a few days ago) that this is no longer valid; it denoted that the Chinese mantis was a subspecies of Tenodera aridifolia (the Japanese giant mantis,) but it has now been determined that it is not a subspecies, and so the correct name (for the time being) is Tenodera sinensis. Unfortunately I have a lot of posts with the incorrect name listed – it’s actually the most common tag on the blog – and I have no idea how long it’s been since this name change has been in place. I would like to correct them all, but this is probably a few days of work and I’m not sure it’s worth the effort, so I might simply change the tags in some way, because those will update back through the archives. This is not the first time taxonomic changes have caught me unawares. You’d think someone would contact me…

pregnant Chinese mantis Tenodera sinensis looking optimisticAnyway, on to the updates. I mentioned several days back that I was watching an obviously pregnant mantis back in our Japanese maple tree, the locale that they had first appeared within, and as of a few days ago this was still the case. And I was, and am, still watching for an egg sac, even though I have not now spotted the individual seen here and above (same mantis, same session, different photo techniques) for the past five days. It’s a shame, because a katydid moved into the tree and would have made a nice mantis meal, and I’m not averse to helping that situation along.

The photo at top is a great example of how our evolved expectations fool us. I can’t even look at it without seeing a look of surprise, and I know better – it’s just what we register as we see certain conditions. In this case it’s a false pupil centered in very wide eyes, which says surprise or shock to us, and this is compounded with the apparently open mouth. It’s all nonsense, of course – while many species might actually be surprised, they have no reasons to communicate this to others (and quite a few not to) and so no such emotions can be read from their ‘expressions.’ This one was not at all shocked, since it had been aware of my presence for several minutes before that image, but it had turned to face me almost immediately before I snapped the photo. With compound eyes the idea of ‘facing’ someone is also semi-inaccurate: most insect species can see in a very broad range around themselves all at once, but some species, like mantids, really do turn towards a subject of interest because they use depth-perception for hunting and defense. So when their head turns, it often is an indication of where they’re directing their attention.

Chinese mantis Tenodera sinensis posing in the morningI’d said I thought we might have had two that had moved back to the Japanese maple, and so we did; they seem to alternate appearances, since this one showed up the same day I stopped seeing the green pregnant one. I’m never really sure whether they go for deep cover within the tree or meander off to someplace else for a while – it’s not a big tree, but it’s dense. This one, here down on the phlox plants surrounding the tree, was showing no signs of pregnancy, and I wondered if it was the same one that had reappeared on the back porch through a few days of solid rain back in September, now having deposited her eggs someplace. I’m not putting much weight behind this hypothesis; this one has damage markings on the forewings that are not visible on the one in the earlier photos. I need to find some way to permanently mark these little buggers, that can’t be lost with a molting…

In any event, I’ll be back if and when I find the egg sac at least, and if I only get some more interesting poses. We’re approaching the slow season for such subjects, so I’m making the most of it while I can.

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