Bark Mantis is a common name given to various species of praying mantis, especially those with cryptic camouflage resembling tree bark. This particular Bark Mantis seems to belong to genus Humbertiella. I used Canon EOS 5DS R with Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens. This was illuminated by Canon MT-24EX macro twin light flash. Although many refer them as a ‘praying mantis,’ Mantis refers to the genus Mantis. Only some praying mantis belong to the genus Mantis. Mantid refers to the entire group.
Some mantid species including the bark mantid depend on good camouflage to prevent predators from eating them, while others keep a more simple look. Well camouflaged mantids have many projections on their body in the shape of dead leaves, branches, flower petals or even moss. Their colours can vary from brown to green, white, pink, yellow or a mix of all colours. The more straightforward looks are simply green, brown or sandy coloured but without any special modifications.
The word mantid comes from the Greek mantikos, for soothsayer or prophet. The praying mantis is so named because when waiting for prey, it holds its front legs in an upright position as if they are folded in prayer. Don’t be fooled by its angelic pose, however, because the mantid is a deadly predator. If a bee or fly happens to land within its reach, the mantid will extend its arms with lightning quick speed, and grab the hapless insect. Sharp spines line the mantid’s raptorial forelegs, enabling it to grasp the prey tightly as it eats. Some larger mantids catch and eat lizards, frogs, and even birds. Who says bugs are at the bottom of the food chain? The praying mantis would better be called the preying mantis.
These three seemingly different insects – mantids, termites, and cockroaches – are believed to descend from a common ancestor. In fact, some entomologists group these insects in a superorder (Dictyoptera), due to their close evolutionary relationships.
Try to sneak up on a mantid, and you may be startled when it looks over its shoulder at you. No other insect can do so. Praying mantids have a flexible joint between the head and prothorax that enables them to swivel their heads. This ability, along with their rather humanoid faces and long, grasping forelegs, endears them to even the most entomophobic people among us.
A mantid has two large, compound eyes that work together to help it decipher visual cues. But strangely, the mantid has just a single ear, located on the underside of its belly, just forward of its hind legs. This means the mantid cannot discriminate the direction of the sound, nor its frequency. What it can do is detect ultrasound, or sound produced by echolocating bats. Studies have shown that praying mantids are quite good at evading bats. A mantid in flight will essentially stop, drop, and roll in mid-air, dive bombing away from the hungry predator. Not all mantids have an ear, and those that don’t are typically flightless, so they don’t have to flee flying predators like bats.
Praying mantids are part of the hemimetabolic group of insects; this means they do not undergo a complete metamorphosis. A complete metamorphosis is that of a butterfly or beetle; first, you have a caterpillar or larvae, then a pupa (cocoon) and then the adult insect. The adult looks nothing like the first stage of the life cycle. In mantids and other Hemimetabola, the newly born insects already resemble the adults. In praying mantids, the newly born nymphs are almost the same as the parents except for their size, colour and their wings. These mantid nymphs shed their skin around 6 – 9 times before reaching adulthood.
Praying mantids occur on all continents except Antarctica, therefore their natural habitat is very diverse. There are over 2,400 species in about 430 genera in 15 families.
There are mantid species that occur in trees, bushes, grassland and even rocky or sandy desert environments. They can occur in wet ecosystems or in very dry systems. Their way of life strongly depends on its habitat and the species, but generally, a mantid is a sit-and-wait predator also called ambush predators. They will stay in one place and scan the environment for potential prey. When it spots its prey, some species will actively walk towards it to catch it. Other species will continue to wait until the prey is close enough to be caught.
Most adult mantids have wings (some species do not). Females usually cannot fly with their wings, but males can. When mantids become an adult, the female will generally remain at her position while the male will search for her. The female will emit a pheromone when she is ready to mate. The male can smell this pheromone of his own species from miles away and will fly towards her.
Yes, it’s true, female mantids do cannibalize their sex partners. In some instances, she’ll even behead the poor chap before they’ve consummated their relationship. As it turns out, a male mantid is an even better lover when his brain, which controls inhibition, is detached from his abdominal ganglion, which controls the actual act of copulation. But most instances of sexual suicide in mantids occur in the confines of a laboratory setting. In the wild, scientists believe the male partner gets munched on less than 30% of the time. The act of dismounting after copulation is dangerous for males, for at this time, females most frequently cannibalize their mates. An increase in mounting duration appears to indicate that males wait for an opportune time to dismount a hungry female, who would be likely to cannibalize her mate.
Mantid eggs are deposited in the form of an ootheca; this is a cluster of eggs enclosed by foam. This foam will quickly harder after the female has produced the ootheca, thereby protecting the eggs inside from cold, predators and from desiccation.