Readers’ wildllife photos

Reader Mark Sturtevant has sent some lovely arthropod photos with his notes (indented):

I am answering the call for more WWP’s.

First, a while back I had introduced a ginormous Chinese mantis (Tenodera sinensis) that I had brought home from the field. ‘Mrs. Mantis’, as I called her, was always hungry and she kept me busy bringing home live prey for her to eat. These prey were usually Orthopterans by day, captured with my sweeping net, or moths by night, which were lured in by our porch light. Of course pictures were taken, and so here are some pictures of her eating a large katydid. I hope that showing these pictures is not considered unseemly. The capture itself happened so fast I had no time to get the camera ready for it. And I was wondering if she would be intimidated by the larger than usual prey! As usual, the first parts consumed were the thoracic region before she went on to other bits. I suppose this is to take out the major muscle groups so she can eat the rest without resistance.

While I was watching her eat, I became aware that I could also listen. There was a steady snik snik snik sound as she scissored without pause through cuticle. As shown in this next picture she even delicately ate the gut, but eschewed the gut contents. She otherwise ate every bit of this meal. Not a leg or piece of wing was dropped to the ground, which was unusual for her.

As shown in the last picture of Mrs Mantis, after a meal the insect will clean itself in a cat-like manner by licking its forelegs, and sometimes whisking the cleaned leg over their head. Although it may be admitted that mantises have some cat-like qualities, I think on balance they fail to be ‘honorary cats’. Among the missing requirements is cuteness. Although they have an alien beauty, there is really nothing very cute about them.

 In the next picture is an Eastern cicada killer (Sphecius speciosus), one of several that I found in the park. These are one of our largest wasps. Females are well known to prey upon periodical cicadas, paralyzing and carrying them off to be sequestered into a burrow with an egg. I did occasionally see the very large females, but they were always zooming off to somewhere. This is one of about a dozen males that were staking out a single area next to the visitor center. They were perching on tree branches and fence rails and chasing away rival males. This was evidently an area where one or more females were about to emerge, and the males were so obsessed with having a chance to mate that they pretty much ignored the human taking pictures.

It is always interesting to see new species, and that is pretty much guaranteed after driving several hundred miles away from home. The next species is a kind of paper wasp I had never seen before, the very handsome Polistes bahamensis:

Deep in the park at a road stop near a river, I came across a intimate pair of opilionids (harvestmen or “daddy longlegs”) that appear to belong to the genus Leiobunum. This has proved to be a complex group for more specific identification because of color variations among the many species. This is the first time I had seen opilionids mating, and as Chelicerate arthropods go these are a bit unusual since the male uses a specialized ‘intromittent organ’ to directly transfer a sperm packet to the female. You can see this appendage beneath them, extending between the pair.   :

And finally, the last picture shows a large longhorn beetle that audibly crash-landed onto our cabin porch at night. I believe this is the Thomas’ oak borer (Derobrachus thomasi), which can be distinguished from similar species in this group of big longhorns by various characters like the length of antennal segments in the vicinity of the very short third segment. Having been captured, this big beetle would never sit still for pictures, and so I resorted to chilling it down in the fridge for a time. This is a common trick, but a bit risky since some insects quickly succumb after even a short period of being cooled down. However, this beetle was scarcely affected. I managed to get in a few hurried pictures before it raised its elytra, unfolded a pair surprisingly large wings, and buzzed off in a dramatic and noisy exit that stirred the leaves in its wake.

14 Comments

  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted May 6, 2017 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    So good! I love the mantis close ups!

    I guess this wasn’t with an iPhone.

  2. Jacques Hausser
    Posted May 6, 2017 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    I like the opilionid kiss. So many never ending legs…(even if one is missing).

  3. Posted May 6, 2017 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Outstanding photographs! Mrs. Mantis clearly enjoyed her meal.

  4. Michael Fisher
    Posted May 6, 2017 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    @Mark I found a YT video of a Mantis eating the face & brain of a fly – with sound! But, from the comments & the types of sounds it’s clear the audio is entirely fake.

    [/watch?v=rwPaUma6R_k]

    Do you have the kit to record the real sounds of Mrs. Mantis? I wanna hear the ‘snick snick’ of a hungry beastie feeding 🙂

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted May 6, 2017 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      I am sure it could be recorded, but I dont have that equipment, sorry.

  5. jeffery
    Posted May 6, 2017 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    There’s a bunch of “Cicada killers” that dig their burrows around my house every summer: I enjoy watching them, although many people are terrified of them because of their size (they’re not aggressive at all, just very “busy”). I’ve never been able to catch one in the act of dragging a Cicada back to their tunnel, though. I’ve read that, the Cicada being too heavy for them to fly with, they will climb a stem or tree with it and then glide in the direction of their nest, repeating the maneuver however many times is necessary.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted May 6, 2017 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      Exactly right on all points. They are huge and ‘buzzy’, but even the larger females, which have stingers, are just not interested in being aggressive. I have put my face right up to a female dragging her cicada up a tree, and she just ignored me.
      Males don’t sting at all.

  6. bugfolder
    Posted May 6, 2017 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Wow, stunning (as always). And inspirational (for folding, even more than photography).

  7. Heather Hastie
    Posted May 6, 2017 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Wow Mark! What great photos! I’ve always thought Mrs Mantis and others of her species would make cool models for an E.T. species for sci-fi.

    • Posted May 6, 2017 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      I, for one, would welcome our new mantis overlords.

      snik snik

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted May 6, 2017 at 11:29 am | Permalink

        😀

  8. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted May 6, 2017 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Thank you, everybody!

  9. Mark R.
    Posted May 6, 2017 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Whoa, those are really stunning.

    Do you know what the “cicada killer” preys upon when cicadas are dormant?

  10. Posted May 7, 2017 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    Very nice! I’m a huge beetle fan, and also a huge-beetle fan.


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