Mystery mantis (male)

I photographed some type of mantis during a photowalk through Huntley Meadows Park last fall. It was like a scene from the movie Alien — there was this creepy-looking orange thing twitching back-and-forth at the end of the mantis’ abdomen that seemed to have a mind of its own. OK, I may have used hyperbole to convey what I saw but it freaked me out a little!

Unknown mantis (male)

Over 20 species are native to the United States, including the common Carolina Mantis, with only one native to Canada. Two species (the Chinese Mantis and the European Mantis) were deliberately introduced to serve as pest control for agriculture, and have spread widely in both countries. Source Credit: Mantis (Wikipedia).

Question is, what type of mantis did I see? Experts disagree.

With location, maybe we can safely ID it. It is clearly not the native [Carolina Mantis] Stagmomantis. Could be the European species, but BugGuide has no records of it for Virginia, or any state south of Delaware. So that leaves the Chinese Mantis, Tenodera sinensis. The only hesitation I have is that Delaware is not terribly far from Virginia, and the Euro mantis is widely sold to gardeners and also capable of hitching rides in shipments of plants, hay, or whatever. The Chinese mantis is generally larger than the Euro, but the only really firm, non-relative ID character separating the two (as far as I know) is the black-and-white eyespot between the Euro’s forelimbs. Source Credit: Joshua Stuart Rose, member of the BugGuide group on Facebook.

There are also two more subtle features, involving the relative width of the head versus pronotum, and the spination of the front femora — in both features, your photo more resembles [European Mantis] Mantis religiosa, and it’s a male. Source Credit: Doug Yanega, member of the BugGuide group on Facebook.

As you can see, the identity of the mantis is an unsolved mystery!

The two antenna-like structures visible at the tip of the mantis’ orange-colored abdomen are cerci (terminal appendages), body parts that are well known to dragonfly enthusiasts like me. The cerci are visible in every photo in the following gallery.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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