Mantodea reditum

That means, “return to the mantids.” Maybe. Probably not – it’s Latinish, one of many languages I have mastered not in the slightest form whatsoever.

Chinese mantis Tenodera sinensis poised on parsley flower
Lest you think something has terrible happened to my mind, I hasten to assure you that I have been keeping tabs on the mantises, even when I haven’t been posting anything. There is now a vast size difference between individuals, but no easy way of demonstrating this, so you’ll just have to take my word on it for now.

unidentified mantis on Dracaena grass
First off, the Carolina mantids (Stagmomantis carolina) seem to have dispersed entirely from their hatching point in the backyard, appearing nowhere that I have seen, though there’s a slim possibility, going only from the size, that the specimen above is one that made it around to the front porch area. Right now, I cannot say whether the Carolina mantids largely vacated the area or fell prey to various hazards, among them quite possibly their own cousins. The Chinese mantids (Tenodera sinensis) had hatched around the front of the house – mostly; I’ve seen a couple in the back – and have spread out a bit to various locations in the yard, with a handful still occupying the immediate environs of the egg case that I witnessed hatching (more or less.) This means the front garden with the day lilies and peonies, and the Japanese maple sitting on the other side of the front door. All of these locations served as their habitat all summer long last year, so I’m expecting the same again this year, but we’ll see how that goes. It’s handy to have photo subjects so close by.

Chinese mantis Tenodera sinensis on rosemary plant
A few have even made it over to the rosemary plants, where at their present size they camouflage amazingly well. This won’t last long; they’re going to get a lot bigger than the rosemary leaves/needles ever will, but right now they’re almost invisible. You did see the one above, right?

Carolina mantis Tenodera sinensis on eating black ant on pokeweed plant Phytolacca americana
There’s not a whole lot of behavior to photograph – they eat, and on rare occasion they molt their exoskeletons, which so far I haven’t spotted (I think I just missed one.) But I occasionally catch them eating, and for two of them, they initially dodged me as I drew close with the camera, but after only a half-minute they felt it was safe enough and thereafter ignored me. Above, this one looks like a distant aunt bestowing an unwanted kiss on a reluctant nephew, which is sorta right I guess. Most aunts don’t eat their nephews around here, but I can’t speak for other cultures…

Chinese mantis Tenodera sinensis with roach
I shot this one just a few hours ago, as it partook of an average-sized roach (they can get a hell of a lot bigger around here.) This one was a measured 40 mm in body length, so about four times the size it was when first hatched, and the biggest in the area to my knowledge – it’s perched on a peony leaf, if that helps at all. It might, in fact, be the same one I photographed three nights ago on the mint plants, but that one was bright green at the time. They can change colors, but I believe it only happens after a molt, and I’m not sure how soon afterward, whether they emerge in a different color or the chitin becomes that hue over time as it hardens. This is one of those things that I’m hoping to witness someday, since so far no source that I’ve found has clarified this matter.

Chiinese mantis Tenodera sinensis in profile showing eye color
This is the photo from three days ago, left until the end for the fartistic merit. The translucence visible in the exoskeleton lends a little weight to this being soon after a molt, but I never saw the discarded skin so I’m only speculating. More noticeable is the eye color. I’ve mentioned before that, at night, mantis eyes turn black, presumably to help them see better, but it only takes place after a certain age, and this one appears to be on the border of that – two of the images above were taken at night, but you wouldn’t be able to tell that from the eyes. The eyes of this one are incompletely black, still bearing some of the daytime stripe on the sides, even though this was well after nightfall. At some point I might stake one out at dusk and photograph a whole sequence of the change.

Right now I’m still pondering potential methods of telling them apart. Since they molt their skins periodically, a little dab of paint or dye will be discarded then, and there are no other markings that are unique to individuals; I’m not even contemplating any body modifications that would be retained after a molt, such as lopping off a foot. Maybe I just need to teach myself DNA sequencing…

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