Nature can be full of drama.
We’ve had a Mediterranean mantis, Iris oratoria, on the rush milkweeds for a few weeks. Today it caught a paper wasp, Polistes flavus.
You can see the wasp better in this view.
At one point the mantis removed the wasp’s wing and dropped it. Wings apparently aren’t edible.
Soon another insect joined the party.
A tiny black fly began walking on the wasp and mantis.
It might seem like the fly was incidental, but it isn’t. Small black flies of the family Milichiidae are known to steal food from predatory insects and spiders. It is a behavior known as kleptoparasitism.
Being a freeloader that steals food from a predatory insect seems like it might be a dangerous lifestyle, but the mantis seems occupied with the wasp and is not reacting to the fly.
See more about the flies at Milichiddae Online and What’s That Bug?
Have you ever spotted a freeloader fly?
For our bug of the week last week we had a mystery: what is this?
Would you believe it is a praying mantis egg case? The female mantis laid her eggs inside a frothy mass of material, which hardened into this case.
It may not look familiar to you because it is made by an introduced species, the Mediterranean mantis, Iris oratoria. It is now found in California, Arizona and other warm states.
This is an interesting species because the insects tend to stay on one plant throughout much of their lives. We got to know individuals over last summer.
Here is the mother of those eggs. You can tell she’s a female because her wings do not reach the end of her abdomen. She was the “desert milkweed mantis.”
A male completed development on the Osage orange tree. That is his exoskeleton from when he molted.
He was very pretty. See how his wings go all the way down his back?
He was the only one that showed me the eye spots on the underwings that are characteristic of the species. See BugGuide for a photograph of a mantis showing eyespots.
This was our favorite. She was a beige/light brown color. It is not unusual for praying mantises to have some green and some brown individuals. ( She has a sharpshooter insect between her back legs. Its exoskeleton is also on the stem.)
I wrote a post about this beige one catching ants on my ant blog.
Now it is cold here and all the mantises are gone. We miss them. But with luck, the egg case will hatch into more next year.
Have you ever watched a praying mantis?