Nature, Urban

Mantis and its deadly prayers…

The praying mantis is a beautiful critter… id quod visum placet – as Aquinas put it – that which seen pleases – and more often than not, in spheres of both the animate and inanimate, this beauty comes at a price, a curse inflicted upon self or others… as Frost surmised… everything beautiful, that’s truly beautiful, is dangerous…

Indian flower mantis (Creobroter pictipennis)

 

The world of arthropods lays testament to this fact… a world of unceasing urgency and activity that mostly escapes the naked eye, ‘tis a hubbub of sound and colour that gains in sheer numbers whatever it loses in size… a microcosm greater than the sum of its parts, even the tiniest bit of life aligned perfectly, to the songs of the seasons or the enormity of the cosmos…

Indian flower mantis (Creobroter pictipennis)

 

Such was trail of thought I chewed upon watching this particular mantis, ironically, its prey to thank, for otherwise I’d never have seen through the camouflage… there was a Lychee shield bug I’d stalked a couple of weeks back and seeing another, started creeping up towards it when I noticed its hindsight looking rather pointed…

Indian flower mantis (Creobroter pictipennis)

 

Peering in on the underside of the shrubbery, the scenario revealed itself, the bug crushed haplessly in the unforgiving forearms of a praying mantis, which was completely invisible to me a moment back… ‘twas too thorny to sit and watch the drama unfold, so on the haunches it had to be, with that eerie feeling of being completely unaware how many of its brethren surrounded me in these bushes…

Indian flower mantis (Creobroter pictipennis)

 

‘Tis a fascinating world, that of the mantis, a member or the female-eat-male-after-mating club (all for the progenies, they’d say), masters of camouflage, adept hunters with diet ranging from small flies to hummingbirds, lizards and frogs… from being revered in ancient cultures as gods and necromancers to becoming popular modern day pets, their lore keeps evolving…  

Indian flower mantis (Creobroter pictipennis)

 

This particular one was a species from the Hierodula genus, a green body with white and yellow accents making it nearly impossible to distinguish from the vegetation, if not for the prominent forelegs, it could easily be mistaken for a grasshopper… the young mimic ants to avoid predators, and adults have a yellow white patch on the upper body to bluff them, an example to deimatic behaviour… and then there are those unique characteristics like only one ear, that too in the belly (or none), ability to detect ultrasound and evade bats…

 

 

Bit by bit the mantis dismembered and devoured the bug – which was alive and kicking about in futility, being impaled by those pincers – in between giving me annoyed stares with those large compound eyes, small flies mischievously stole bits and pieces from its mouth… finishing the meal leisurely in around twenty minutes, it stretched around for a bit, before I decided that this was enough invasion of privacy and took its leave…

 

Musings on a mantis, Hierodula coarctata, Noida, Uttar Pradesh

Author: Parth Joshi

Allured by the outdoors, the author is made up in parts of that quintessential lost soul wreathing under the pangs of biophilia in a desk job, a wannabe elegist mostly ending up in dungeons of poetasters and an optimist waiting for the senility of the modern world to fade away while sampling shoots and leaves. In saner times, he has a keen interest in areas pertaining to tourism, history, agriculture and climate change, especially with respect to historical interpretations, emerging technologies and future livelihoods. An avid trekker, runner, cyclist, birder and photographer, he is more often than not found gloating over anything hinterland, on foot or over computer monitors, and fantasizing solutions that can foster inclusive growth and sustainable livelihoods for communities at the grassroots.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *