Huge compound eyes mounted on a triangular alien-like head watched patiently over its large field of vision. The green stick-like creature’s keen sight for detecting movement of prey and the flexible movement of its head which brings prey into its binocular field of view are keys to its success in hunting. Within seconds the triangular head turns 180 degrees allowing its excellent vision and hearing. The antenna reaching out from the head, are used mostly for smell. The creature stands in a “prayer-like” stance waiting for its natural predator to wander by, not seeing the almost invisible stick-like insect.
This odd shaped insect is found in all parts of the world. It has been seen in gardens, forest, trees, and has been recorded being 18 inches long. Its name is taken from the Greek word mantis meaning fortune teller. It appears to be in a praying position and can sit without a single movement for hours if need be. The mantis has a three segmented body, with a head, thorax and abdomen. Their powerful forelegs are so unusually powerful they can crush their prey in half.
Otto sat between leaves to give him an extra edge in disguising himself. He wanted all things big and small to see him only as a green twig. His color matched the green leaves and his long lanky legs looked just like the stems from a branch. He would remain unmovable until his eyes caught sight of food. Today he was hoping for a mouse. He would use his strong cutting mouth to rip and consume his catch. The sooner the better for the hunger pangs were getting worse and worse.
“I have had lizards, birds, toads, and moles. Today I have a taste for a mouse. Some insects eat plants, some eat fruits but I am a carnivorous insect. I eat meat!!! I’ll sit here patiently and when I see my catch I will wait until he is within my striking distance. Then I will use my vice-like front legs to quickly snatch him and eat him alive. I don’t care if they are male or female. They all taste the same to me.” Otto mused.
Otto had to be very alert for not only was HE looking for food but
there were others around him doing the same thing. If he were
not careful he could end up in a monkey’s mouth, a giant frog’s
mouth, a spider’s web or wrapped in a snakes coils.
Otto heard a strange sound. Immediately he felt threatened, and went
into his defense position. He spread his forelegs out as wide as he could.
He fanned his wings out as far as they would go. Then he opened his mouth
as wide as he could. If he could make
himself bigger, he could scare his opponent away. If the harassment
from the attacker persists, he would be in the strike position and would
attempt to pinch or bite his victim.
“I hope there are no hornet’s nests anywhere around here.” Those things belong
to the devil’s crew. I just hate them. They have killed more in my family than I care
to think about.” Otto mumbled to himself.
“Another thing that I dislike is mating with a female. Women are so unpredictable.
They can be so friendly one minute and literally bite off your head the next minute.
I’ve watched my male friends be eating by their mates. Quite a horrific thing
don’t you know?”
“My cousin Bert was happy as could be courting with Ethel. Then when they decided
to have children the devil must have gotten into Ethel because just about the time
Bert was about to leave, Ethel turned around and with one big snap, she bit his head
clean off. I just don’t know what to think about females that will eat their mates.
Sounds kind of crazy but its true. I never will forget how he looked. He was just all
legs and arms. She ate his head and his stomach before you could say SKAT!” Otto
continued shaking his head from left to right to check out his surrounding territory.
Just then a voice was heard from high up in the tree limbs,and it came echoing down to Otto.
“Bert should have made use of his night flight. When bats are flying they use their
sound waves to track their prey.
Since bats are our most dreaded predator, we need to be more conscious of our surroundings.
All we need is for some crazy female bat to come flying in as fast as a jet plane and take us
off guard. When we hear the bats frequencies begin to increase, we are to stop
flying and take a nose dive down vertically. If we use our incredible speed and the
downward spiral we can out fox the bats and most of our other predators. All we need is
one good ear!” Harvey, a senior mantis advised arrogantly. “How do you think I’ve
lived to be such an old fougie? This will likely be my last molt and I’ll have a new
set of wings. Hopefully they will be strong enough to carry my fat self!” He grinned.
“Where in the world did our females learn to be cannibals?
I knew some spiders ate their mates but really this is just insane.
It makes me think twice before I even think about getting close to a female.
I’d rather keep my noggin just where it is.” Otto shouted loudly.
“Lay on McDuff and damn be he who cries “Hold Enough!” Otto repeated
the famous words from Shakespeare. It wouldn’t hurt a thing if everyone knew he
was a very intelligent mantis.
There was a rustling in the leaves beneath. Otto moved slowly so he
could see what was going on.
“Well I’ll be a horned toad! Old Virgil has caught himself a mouse. While I
was up here running my mouth Virgil was set on go. He caught the mouse
I was going to have for dinner!”
He watched Virgil the mantis below wrestle the mouse down and bite through
his jugular vein in his throat. It didn’t take but a few moments and the mouse
lay still on a pile of leaves. Virgil was eating as fast as he could. If there was
anything left, perhaps Otto would have some.
Perhaps Virgil would be willing to share just a morsel or two?
It would do no harm to scamper down and be on the scene just in case.
“Get your lazy good for nothing self out of here!” Shouted Virgil. “This is
my dinner. I stayed as still as could be for hours while you and the one on
the higher limbs flapped your lips in the wind. Now be gone from here
before I let lose on you! I am feeling the power of the electrical storm
just now.” Virgil ranted in fury.
How could anyone expect to share in his food when they didn’t do one thing
to help catch it? He thought to himself as he gulped down a mouthful
“Tomorrow is another day! Let’s see if you can stand as stiff as I did
today. If ye do then ye eat! If ye don’t then you starve, don’t you
know?” Virgil lamented.
So it came to be that Otto got up at daybreak the next day in search
of food. You can bet he did not flap his lips at all that day.
You can also bet he didn’t share his food with Virgil either.
“Turn about is fair play I’d say!” Otto resounded. “If he had shared with
me perhaps I’d have shared as well but he didn’t and I didn’t. I guess
that is a fair ending don’t you know?”
Otto waddled up the tree and stretched out on a limb. He was so full
he could hardly breathe. The day had been good to Otto and he
had sleep on his mind. Tomorrow he would show Virgil just how
stiff he could be.
The crickets rubbed their legs together and the tree
frogs chirped though out the thickets. Lightning bugs twinkled in
the darkness and the snores of Otto could be heard in the distance.
A black snake was very much awake and looking for food. He caught the
smell of Otto and silently slithered up the tree.
Life is a never ending saga and the circle of life continues.
Question: What is a mantis head shaped like?
Written by Sybil Shearin
All Rights Reserved