[Sniff] They grow up so fast!

You might remember the above image from a post earlier this year. It came from April, when several newly-hatched praying mantises, probably Chinese mantises (Tenodera aridifolia sinensis) were found to be inhabiting the azalea bushes that flanked our porch. I was, of course, delighted, because interesting subjects that are easy to find and convenient are exactly the reason I want to live somewhere on a small exotic south Pacific island someday. One with a fast internet connection. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Anyway, that pic, while I’m quite proud of it, doesn’t show scale very well, which you can determine better from this one:

Over the weeks, I watched the mantises grow, and began being able to tell them apart. They switched places on the two bushes a couple of times, and gradually reduced in number. Some seemed to try out the nearby pampas grass, which has always been a popular resort, but two remained, one outpacing the other in growth. They each claimed territory of one of the bushes, which are about 2 meters apart. Then the larger (I’m fairly certain a female) switched bushes again, forcing the smaller to vacate – I found the smaller one in a couple of different places over the next few days, then that one vanished.

Most of the sightings, after several weeks, took place at night; I suspect the heat that we began reaching in the summer months had a lot to do with this. I might go for two weeks or so without sighting any, thinking that they’d moved on or become prey to something else, and then spot their re-emergence one night. The big female has been that way – as soon as I decided I needed to make this post, which required a certain photo, she disappeared for several days. I’m guessing she was molting, which they tended to do well inside the bush away from my eager camera.

So a few minutes ago (it’s 10:30 pm as I type this,) she reappeared, and I wasted no time in taking this shot, strictly for comparison. The Girlfriend, who sees them only about 10% of the times that I do, is always surprised to see how they’ve grown, but these images display it more distinctly I think.

I haven’t done a recent count, but I’m fairly certain I have a few hundred mantis images just from this year alone, from the convenient bushes, several other plants in the yard, and a few from the botanical garden. You have actually been spared from most, because I’m trying to mix up the posts and subjects a bit ;-)

If my guess is right, fairly soon this one’s abdomen will swell significantly and she’ll find a place for her egg sac, which will overwinter and hatch out in the spring. I found the one that she emerged from a few weeks after her hatching, not very deep in the azalea bush (and far too close to the line I’d pruned them back to in the winter,) so I’ll be checking carefully to try and find hers before next spring.

Meanwhile, on a set of flowers about 8 meters away, a much smaller one has been making itself at home, and serving as yet another photo subject. If you want to see some interesting detail, take a look here (you may have to click on it when it loads to see it at full resolution,) and realize that the eyes measure only 4.5mm across the outside – yes, I measured them.