One of the best things about always wandering around with a camera and paying attention between the places I photograph, in this case a trip to the mangrove swamp in Port Macquarie, is finding some unexpected subjects. This Mantis was hanging out – as they often do – on a tree doing their best impression of being a stick. It might not be clear from this photograph, but this particular mantis was about 5″ or so long and so trying to fool me they were a stick was a bit of a futile effort.
After getting some nice shots of the insect on the tree, I decided to pick it up and take a shot on my hand to give people a better idea just how large it was.
The common name of these creatures of course are “Praying Mantids”, which is because of the two large forelimbs that have been extensively modified for prey capture they hold in front of them. When retracted, as in the first shot, they look a little bit like they are holding them in prayer and hence the name. The serrations, cryptic camouflage to hide in the environment and fierce mandibles make for an extremely effective ambush hunter. I would not want to be a juicy cockroach, spider, moth or butterfly coming across this chap! Of course, in all my years of handling various insects I have never had a mantis even remotely act in a hostile or aggressive manner to me (beyond some wing open threat displays).
After the hot photoshoot was over, I put them back on the tree and was on my way. Upon returning, I was actually somewhat amused to discover the insect was actually still there and was polishing off some unfortunate thing that crossed its path while I had been away. Evidently, we both had a pretty good day!