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Life Abounds In A Conservation Cemetery: The Praying Mantis

Life Abounds in a Conservation Cemetery: The Praying Mantis…

Mantis on ThistleA conservation cemetery is, by design, a green space large enough to be a true nature preserve. It may encompass a woodland, a field of wildflowers and a stream. The hope is that in communion with the natural world, we will find comfort and peace, that in walking amongst the trees, we will find solace for our aching hearts. The intention is to honor the earth and provide a refuge from development and other human impacts. There are countless animals and plants that will benefit from this gift. This month we focus on one such beneficiary, the praying mantis.
The praying mantis (Mantodea) is common in our area. There are numerous species and genera of mantises. These were photographed at Bells Bend Park in Nashville, the brown being the male and the green being the female. Mantises have large bodies and their forelegs are adapted for gripping prey.  They are known as ambush hunters, but a few ground dwelling species actually persue their prey.  They get their name from their folded fore-limbs and upright “praying” posture.  Praying mantises commonly live for about a year.  They will mate, lay their eggs and die in the fall.  Females are occasionally canabalistic and have been known to decapitate the male during or after mating. Their clutch of eggs is protected by a hard casing that protects the brood until spring.  They are quite remarkable insects.  As a kiddo I was often warned not to stare them in the eye, as they had been known to spit in the eyes of the onlooker.  The mantis will produce a regurgitated brown saliva-like fluid that can be used as a defense mechanism against other insects.  However, it is not harmful to humans and the praying mantis cannot spit in your eye.  If you see one, count yourself lucky.  Historically, the ancient Greeks thought the mantis had the ability to guide the lost traveller home.  The ancient Egyptians believed the “bird-fly” to be a god who lead the souls of the dead to the underworld.

Photo and article contributed by Larkspur Conservation Executive Director, John Christian Phifer.

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