What a cool insect – looks like something from an alien movie doesn’t it? I’ve always liked praying mantises, they seem so cool and sophisticated.
Mantises are at the top of the insect food chain and will eat just about anything it can grab and hold with its powerful front legs. It didn’t take me long to realize why this particular praying mantis was stalking the area. Yes, it may be hard for some to comprehend (even myself), but these insects are capable of taking down a hummingbird if given the opportunity.
Hummingbirds passing through my area now are very active, franticly feeding and bulking up for their long journey south for the winter; but this large female praying mantis (above) has her own agenda. She will be laying eggs soon and could use the extra nutrition herself.
Out of curiosity I watched as a cautious hummingbird approached the feeder, while the mantis watched closely and tried to angle itself in a position to attack.
There are lots of species of mantis’s, but the one in these photos is the Chinese Mantis (Tenodera sinensis). It’s a non-native insect introduced to North America in the late 1800s to aid in pest control. The Chinese Mantis can grow to a length of more than 6 inches. Our native mantis’s are about half that size when fully grown making it easy to distinguish between the two.
Situations like this in nature don’t normally affect me, it’s just part of the circle of life and the way nature balances itself out. However, this particular insect is non-native, and it’s also stalking a man provided food source that's been put out for the birds. Under those circumstances, I feel as if I’m somewhat responsible for the birds safety. I guess one could argue that it’s no different than hawks that stalk backyard birdfeeders, but in the hummingbirds case, it’s just a matter of relocating the feeder to a safer location. And that’s what I did.
Just remember to always keep an eye out on your feeders to ensure that they’re in a safe location for the birds. Things will happen beyond our control but at a minimum we can at least eliminate the obvious dangers.