Oh that’s sneaky

So as I said last year, I was endeavoring to photograph a Chinese mantis creating an egg sac, or ootheca, and never managed it. Actually, in all my years of chasing hexapods, I’ve done it just once – one lousy frame. Last fall, I had a likely candidate in the form of an obviously pregnant female (she said so on her FronsBook page, so I never had to ask or assume,) hanging out on the Japanese maple, but saw, and found, nothing. As the year waned and the leaves fell, I examined that tree minutely, and there is no ootheca on it – several bagworm moth chrysalises, but no mantis eggs. And none to be seen on the property anywhere else.

Over the winter, then, I began gathering oothecas out in the North Carolina boondocks as I came across them, but wasn’t finding many. I had two, up until an outing with Buggato this past Wednesday where I gathered three more. That’s enough, though they were all Chinese mantises (Tenodera sinensis) and so far no Carolina mantises (Stagmomantis carolina) – I’m still looking to add one or two of those if I find any.

But today, I elected to mount all of those found and place them in the yard for spring. They overwinter quite well, but should have the rains at least, so it was time to get them out. I went around to the old locations and collected the previous year’s mounting sticks to use again.

In explanation: mantids attach their egg sacs with a strong adhesive ‘foam’ that hardens into a husk, akin to that expanding insulation foam stuff you can get, and they always do this on the stiff stem of a hardy weed, or the small branches of a tree. When I collect them I keep a decent length of this supporting structure as well, and tie the far ends of this to a loose branch of my own, with the string well out of the immediate environs of the sac; this way, it all looks natural for photos, and I can place them in areas that I can easily (more or less, anyway) access for photos while providing a good habitat for the bebbies. Most of last year’s were still in place, so I opted to reuse them.

Gathering one branch from the front yard a few meters from the Japanese maple, I noticed that its ootheca was still intact, which happens often enough; they’re pretty hardy and may last for a few years before disintegrating. Though I thought I’d removed all of the old ones so I could easily tell when a new one was present.

You can see this coming, can’t you?

egg sac ootheca of Chinese mantis Tenodera sinensis on small tree in front yard
So close that it was even slightly adhered to one of my planted branches, an egg sac had been sitting right under my nose for months – I undoubtedly walked past it several times thinking it was the old one that I’d never removed. Worse, she placed it on an unidentified sapling that I had been about to remove as unwanted in the yard – gotta stay for a while now.

The evidence for this being the same mantis that I saw last year (linked above) is fairly high, though not conclusive – she was seen before and after depositing on a tree maybe four meters off, the only mantis that I’d spotted in the yard for quite a while. However, there’s enough cover that others may have been around and I simply missed them, though I won’t ever admit that here. The proximity to the location of the old one was mere centimeters; do they try to return to the site of their birth? There’s little reason to believe this, since breeding adults have wings, but there may be some genetic prod towards it given that the area is a successful habitat (obviously, if she survived to reproduction) – or there may be no prod at all, and it’s just a matter of happenstance anyway. Regardless, I have plenty of oothecas to watch, and perhaps shoot video of.

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