Praying Mantis

Today is our first perfect late summer/early fall day, with 52 degrees this morning, rising to the low 80’s with low humidity this afternoon. I spent most of the day outside, relishing the warm sunshine, the light breeze, and the late summer sounds of insects, along with the cry of a Red-tailed Hawk soaring against the clear blue sky and the singing of Chickadees, as they alighted near me to grab sunflower seeds I had spread on the table for them.

I was sitting on the deck reading, when I caught sight of some motion out of the corner of my eye– a Praying Mantis was slowly bobbing as she walked along the railing.

She paused and turned to look at me, even reaching out her forelegs to try and grab for my camera and then my hand.

She walked right up onto my hand, as if curious about what I was

I don’t actually know if this was a male or female. I’ve looked it up, and the best way to tell is to count the segments on the abdomen, but since I didn’t know that at the time, I didn’t check. Next time I’ll know to look. Females have six segments, the last one quite large, whereas males have eight..

The mantis ended up walking up a nearby tree

I’m always glad to see a Praying Mantis here, not only because they are fascinating to watch, but because they are beneficial insects, eating many insect pests. The females also often eat their mates immediately following mating. We saw one female dining on her hapless mate in the garden a number of years ago.



17-year Cicadas

I settled into my hammock a couple of weeks ago, ready to enjoy a glass of iced tea (with chocolate mint from my garden), a good book, and some peace and quiet. Until I heard a pulsing hum in the distance. With a sigh I tried to ignore what I assumed was some sort of motor noise from a distant neighbor’s yard. The pulsing wasn’t loud, but it was continual and somewhat irritating, since too often I feel inundated by various types of engine noise that drown out the quieter sounds of nature and eliminate silence from my world. It occurred to me that it might be some sort of insect sound, but it seemed so regular in its pulsing that we figured it must be an engine.

The next afternoon the motor noise was louder, and I began to think it might be the 17-year cicadas I had been reading about, but I wondered why I hadn’t seen any in our yard. When I went for a walk around some neighboring roads, though, the humming was much louder in some areas and almost nonexistent in other areas, even along a two-mile loop. And, I began to see a few red-eyed cicadas. It turns out that these periodical cicadas can be very localized and may emerge with great density in some areas and be completely absent in immediately adjoining areas.

Interestingly, once I knew the noise I was hearing was a cicada chorus and not a motor running loudly in the distance, it no longer seemed irritating. Now I wanted to hear it more closely and see more of these red-eyed singers, more fully experiencing this brief and fascinating visitation of long-lived insects.

By yesterday the chorus was dying down and I began seeing dead and dying cicadas on my morning walk, so I brought a few dead insects home to sketch. I also looked them up and found out that there are both 13 and 17 year cicadas, with three species of 17-year cicadas and 4 species of 13-year cicadas. One fact I found particularly fascinating is that all these species have life cycle lengths that are based on prime numbers (13 years and 17 years). I just love the way math shows up in nature cycles and systems and structures!

I am sorry to say good-bye to the cicadas and their song, and I look forward to seeing and hearing their offspring in 2030.

Click image to enlarge

Interesting links with more information: