A Fuzzy Meal

I took a quick trip over to Lincoln Creek Prairie again this last weekend.  Two weeks ago, I photographed a praying mantis and saw several others.  This trip, I saw a couple more – including one that had captured, and was eating, a large sphinx moth.  I took a couple photographs of it and then moved on to look for other subjects.  A few minutes later, however, I found myself drawn back to the mantis, and just sat and watched him for a while.  Here are a few photographs from that morning.

A

When I first spotted it, the mantis was upside down on a pitcher sage (Salvia azurea) plant, and the moth was still struggling feebly.

.

B

As it fed, the mantis was getting fuzz all over its head.

.

C

As I watched, the mantis tried – mostly unsuccessfully – to wipe some of the hairs off its face.

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D

It’s always interesting to see which part of their prey a predator will start feeding on.  In this case, the mantis was eating the underside of the thorax first.

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is an ecologist and Eastern Nebraska Program Director for The Nature Conservancy. He supervises the management and restoration of approximately 4,000 acres of land in central and eastern Nebraska - primarily along the central Platte River. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press.
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15 Responses to A Fuzzy Meal

  1. Ann Bowe says:

    Is this one of those nasty Chinese mantids?

  2. elfinelvin says:

    Fascinating! I would have liked to see that. Did it ever manage to clean off all that fuzz?

  3. Joanne says:

    I enjoy your blog and pictures — memories of my childhood and wandering the prairie with my dog embracing all that the prairie has to offer.

  4. carltrip says:

    That is pretty discusting! It is still cool that you managed to all of these pictures.

  5. Patrick says:

    I’ve had a large mantis perched in a flowering goldenrod the last three days. It’s more brown than yours Chris, and a good 5-6 inches long…huge abdomen…perhaps female? Just curious, anyone know how many times a female can lay eggs, and how many eggs are usually in an egg case?

  6. laurliet says:

    I think that these photos are very interesting. I personally think that it is a little disgusting, but they are very amazing.

  7. Judith Deaton says:

    Did you spend any more time watching the mantis as it ate? Curious to know if it consumes the whole insect or leaves certain parts it doesn’t want…or eats until it is full? Thanks for the great photos.

    • Chris Helzer says:

      Judith – I didn’t get to stay and watch the whole meal. My guess is that it ate the parts it liked best and discarded the rest, but often with predators, it seems (from my observation) that how much of each prey item they eat depends upon how easily they can catch more. When prey is abundant, they might just eat their favorite parts, but when food is scarce, they’ll eat everything they can. There are a lot of insects around in the prairie, so my guess (and it’s ONLY a guess) is that the mantis isn’t having trouble finding food.

  8. Pingback: Photo of the Week – September 6, 2013 | The Prairie Ecologist

  9. Ana says:

    I’m not a fan of bugs, but these pictures are really cool.

  10. Pingback: Photo of the Week – September 12, 2013 | The Prairie Ecologist

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