Praying Mantis - the mante religieuse
The creature is common. At about 75 mm. long and bright green it is unmistakeable. The highly mobile triangular head seems to have insufficient attachment to connect with the body. The eyes are large and seem to look straight at you; and probably do! The large front legs which are so often held up as though in prayer are in fact poised to grab any passing prey. There is a large black spot in the 'armpit'. I wonder if this is in some manner an attractant for passing creatures to lure them to their death?
The egg mass of the mantis is deposited in November. This remarkable structure is nearly two inches long and half as wide and has the texture of dried expanded polystyrene foam. Inside are enclosed up to 300 eggs. It expands as it is extruded by the female. The process is very similar to the action of the DIY foam canisters for filling spaces which I find extremely useful in decorating my house! I kept one mass through last winter until the eggs hatched and hoped that I would be able to rear some little mantis. In this I failed. Numerous tiny creatures emerged all about 3 mm. long and looking like miniature versions of the adult. Most died almost at once. I thought that I might feed them on aphids, but they ignored the food. After an hour or two I let them loose. How do they survive in the wild?
The praying mantis has an even more scary relative. This is known as the 'Little Devil' - le Diablotin. It has a body very like the praying mantis, but its head has two long horns and the two antennae between them are thick so that its head is very like that of a diminutive goat. The abdomen is shaped into an upwardly turned spiral with hook like projections. All the legs and the thorax are very thin; in colour a mottled brown. Alarming but harmless, to us.