Praying and Pacing

This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on October 25, 2013 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.

What's that white stuff?
What’s that white stuff?

As is often the case, I am able to notice small, slight color variations on my plants. I might not notice an entire shrub fallen down, but a 1/4 inch bug on the bottom of the leaf?  It attracts me like moths to light.

Such was the case when I passed by my Bastard False Indigo (Amorpha fruticosa) and I saw a small white blob.  That Florida native plant is a favorite of spiders, so I just assumed it was a spider nest.

Imagine my surprise when this big ol’ praying mantid gal was there laying her eggs.  This particular species is the Carolina Mantis (Stagmomantis carolina), a regular visitor to my place.  In many areas it is unfortunate that the introduced Mantids outnumber the natives.   I’m lucky enough to have only seen native species in my beautiful wildlife garden.

Well I'll be...It's a Carolina Mantis
Well I’ll be…It’s a Carolina Mantis

I watched for a while, but it appears to be a slow process. Mantids lay their eggs and surround them with a gooey substance that hardens into egg mass known as an ootheca.  There are three main stages in the life of a mantid: egg, nymph and adult.

Seems the eggs would come out faster if she wasn’t upside down.
Seems the eggs would come out faster if she wasn’t upside down.

I was surprised to learn that they lay their eggs just prior to winter.  The egg case acts as a protection against the cold…and yes, we in Florida get cold.  Heck, there might even be three full hours of below freezing temperatures in my fair Central Florida location.

Mantid nymphs emerge in the spring and they reach adulthood in the fall, when the process starts all over again.

She looked at me, but didn’t seem concerned that I was close
She looked at me, but didn’t seem concerned that I was close

Mrs. Mantid seemed unfazed by my picture taking.  She just continued about her business.  I left her alone and returned later in the day to see the resultant ootheca.  This is the third I have found this year.  One is back on some dogfennel and another was on a fence.  The cases change from the milky white to a tan-ish color, I assume to blend in with the landscape as it goes dormant brown for the winter.  Mom was nowhere to be found.  Left those future babies on their own.  So much for motherly nurturing.

By the next day the egg case has hardened and changed color
By the next day the egg case has hardened and changed color

So, I guess in spring I will be a grandma to some new mantid babies come April or so.  It’s going to be a long winter…I can’t wait and I’m already starting to pace.

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