They’re trying to avoid me

It’s almost 4 AM right now, and don’t ask me about my sleep schedule. But yesterday evening (as in, about seven hours ago,) I checked on the mantis egg sacs in the yard because I know they’re due – actually overdue, going by previous years. Nothing was happening then, so as I stepped out this morning at 3-ish I only glanced down at the nearest one in passing, since it sits by the Japanese maple right by the front door – and saw the telltale beard.

egg sac ootheca of Chinese mantis Tenodera sinensis during hatching
Yep, they thought they’d slip this hatching by me – and almost succeeded, too, especially since we’re due for a thunderstorm in about four more hours. Wasn’t going to try setting up the video light, so it’s only still photos this time; I got video last year of the hatching, and now I’m aiming for hunting behavior, at least. See how many you can spot just in this tighter shot; the thin legs are the giveaway. But it was apparent they’d been at it for a while, judging from the huge number roaming the twigs.

newborn Chinese mantids Tenodera sinensis swamring over branches near egg sac ootheca
The twigs here are not from the maple, but the dried branch that I affixed the egg sac to, and they were mostly sticking to it, though some had ventured farther ‘afield’ and as I leaned in closer for detail shots, more of them felt threatened and dropped away like rain. This hurts them not at all, since their mass is so slight that even a big drop results in infinitesimal impact, and they just scamper away upon landing.

I really do have to emphasize their numbers.

clusters of newborn Chinese mantids Tenodera sinensis on twigs
Curiosity has me wanting to do a rough count to see how many had emerged, but I knew this would be nigh impossible. Not only had they already started to disperse among the maple and underlying vinca/periwinkle, but they were criss-crossing one another and dodging back and forth, so it would be hard to tell who was already counted. It will be an exercise for the day that I see the first hints of emergence, and want to sit there for several hours. Don’t expect that to happen anytime soon.

And while I didn’t see any in the act of emerging, I probably could have just waited, since at least one was still limbering up before detaching itself from the ‘dragline’ that anchors them to the ootheca.

newly emerged Chinese mantis Tenodera sinensis still attached to ootheca egg sac
You can see the still-bulging ‘forehead,’ just below the dark eyes, a bullet-shape that disappears soon after emergence, so this one was almost certainly less than 15 minutes old. And of course, the discarded exoskeletons (or something,) the chaff from all of the previous – you can go ahead and count those if you like.

They were definitely reluctant to let me loom in too close, no matter how slow I went, but then I got lucky with one that roamed into range as I was already in position.

newborn Chinese mantis Tenodera sinensis approaching camera
Only a few days back, I had completed mowing and edging the area, less than a meter from the egg sac, so I’m glad I won’t have to do it again for a while – we’ll avoid the slaughter as much as possible. They are, of course, a little less than 10mm in length, and so a bit hard to discern unless you’re right on top of them (or they’re clustered in huge masses right after hatching.) Thankfully, they tend to stay up on plants and not run around in the lawn very much – though they do spread out a bit, so it still happens.

I was hoping to get one to pose on the vinca blossoms for some nice colorful shots, but despite the availability of at least four flowers in the immediate vicinity, they weren’t getting particularly close. Then I lucked out slightly as a wandering individual started sizing up a new bud for a jump.

newborn Chinese mantis Tenodera sinensis judging distance to vinca minor periwinkle bloom for a jump
It eventually decided against it, so this is the best I got in the short session, but I’ll likely have plenty of opportunity. Close by, there will soon be daylilys, peonies, and the butterfly bushes to pose against, so we’ll see what happens.

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