This beautiful animal is Margaret, an adult female GIANT ASIAN PRAYING MANTIS from the rainforests of Asia. She has truly amazing eyesight and is an incredible hunter who loves to catch and eat insects and other small animals! Despite her fierce looking appearance she is actually very friendly (assuming you are a person and not a cricket that is)!
These first two pictures were taken in my garden on a beautiful sunny day in May 2010, I'm sure you'll agree that they truly capture Margaret's natural beauty!
These first two pictures were taken in my garden on a beautiful sunny day and I'm sure you'll agree that they truly capture Margaret's natural beauty! Margaret is hugely popular with everyone she meets, both children and adults alike, firstly because she is truly beautiful but also because she has a fantastic habit of staring at people which is an amazing experience of which to be on the receiving end!
Just in case anyone reading this has met a praying mantis named Margaret during one of my visits some time ago, and is wondering how on earth she can be so long-lived, I have to say that I always name my giant Asian mantids Margaret!! You might therefore have met the 'original' Margaret or Margaret number 2, 3, 4 and so on! I always just call them Margaret for short, as it gets very confusing when trying to explain this to young children!!
Praying mantids have very sharp spines on their powerful front legs which they use to catch their insect food. These spines are clearly visible in the picture of Margaret below left and the picture below right shows her cleaning one of her legs, which they do with their mouthparts! These two fabulous pictures were taken by the very talented Jenny Varley at a macro photography workshop for which I provided all the animal subjects in January 2017!
If you like these pictures please feel free to check out Jenny's website, full of truly amazing images of animals in their natural habitats: http://www.jennymvarley.co.uk/
This final picture of Jenny's directly below shows Margaret munching on a cricket, along with one of my own feeding pictures below this!
Praying mantids produce egg sacs which are correctly known as ootheca. Depending on the species of mantis these ootheca can contain hundreds of eggs and, when they hatch, these hundreds of babies can appear within a very short space of time indeed as you can see in these pictures taken when some of Margaret's oothecae have hatched!
Once they have emerged, the nymphs hang from silken threads just below the ootheca to dry out and moult their exoskeleton. In the picture below you can see lots of empty moulted 'skins' (exuvia) just towards the bottom of the picture - once moulted they start charging about very quickly indeed!
Newly-hatched giant Asian praying mantids like the ones pictured above are surprisingly fast growing insects, and they can be large juveniles like the one below within just a few months:
Praying mantids like to keep themselves meticulously clean, and they do so by using their mouthparts to carefully clean their legs and antennae. The juvenile below is cleaning its left middle leg whilst balancing on just the other three thin walking legs, quite a good trick I'm sure you'll agree!