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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Close Encounters

Mantis1

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.

Mantis2

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.

Mantis3

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.

There’s an article on the Birdwatchers Digest Site titled “Praying Mantis Makes Meal of a Hummer”, along with photos. If your not too sensitive to such things like this be sure to check it out!

15 comments:

Les said...

I realize everything has to eat and a mantis has as much a right to live as a hummingbird. However, I am glad you moved the feeder.

Dave@TheHomeGarden said...

Great photos! I hope your mantis did not get a hummingbird dinner. Much better for the mantis to be eating bugs!

Jan@Thanks for today. said...

So glad you moved the feeder! I did not realize these huge non-native mantis' could take on a hummingbird. Not good! I will pay closer attention for these possible scenarios! I am not sure I should watch the video...sounds heartwrenching! I posted a video not too long ago of a garden snake chowing down on a frog...but that's just a big different, in my opinion! Esp. since they are both natives and welcome here! Not so for that non-native praying mantis!

Jeane said...

I had no idea a mantis would go after a hummingbird! Both visit my garden but I've never seen them in conflict.

Grace said...

I've heard and read that hummingbirds are better off without the human-provided feeders. Because I have garden cats I have not used feeders of any kind and yet with a plethora of flowers hummers reside in my Zone 8 garden year-round. I'm wondering if human intervention, although well intentioned, is actually doing more harm than good. Just a thought.

dAwN said...

Very cool encounter!

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Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

I read this posting back when you first posted... then about a week later I found a Mantis on my Hummingbird feeder. I went out and flicked him off. He came back the next day...again I went out and flicked him away. Haven't seen him since. Thanks for the info!

Alan said...

Hey Janet, I guess my timing was good. Glad to help. Mine also kept returning until I move the feeder. Very persistent and smart insects!

Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

Yes, Alan, your timing was perfect! He still hasn't returned and the big hummer activity is starting to wind down...think the ones visiting now are the travelers.

Jeff said...

I've actually seen hummingbirds at my feeder being very wary of a praying mantis. Great photos! I didn't have to move mine and there were no incidents thankfully.

H.J. Ruiz said...

Very interesting article and excellent photos! I've seen those large mantis, they are voracious as well as aggressive with other insects and some mammals.
Great work!

scottweberpdx said...

I remember seeing that post of the Mantis that caught the Hummingbird...I have to say, it's a little freaky!

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