8-14 October 2000

Installment #39---Visitor #

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Insects are amazing, but one of the most fascinating of all six-leggers at Hilton Pond Center is the Praying Mantis. This elongated creature is the Tyrannosaurus rex of the insect world, stalking the goldenrod patch in fall and grabbing anything that moves with its unique front legs. It is the forelegs that give the Praying Mantis its name, for their owner holds them like folded hands until a passing insect comes close enough to grasp. The first two segments of the forelegs are lined with sharp, overlapping spines that can pierce an insect exoskeleton and provide an escape-proof grip as the mantid chows down on its still-struggling prey.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

The most common mantid at Hilton Pond Center is the Carolina Mantid, Stagmomantis carolina, which happens to be South Carolina's official state insect (photo above). This native species is 2-4" long and much smaller than the eight-inch Chinese Mantid (Tenodera aridifolia sinensis), an introduced species that sometimes appears in the Piedmont.

Carolina Mantids vary greatly in color. Some are pale solid green while others are brownish-tan or gray--with or without dark spots and speckles that provide camouflage. Females are somewhat heavier-bodied and tend to lie in wait for their prey, while the males are more active stalkers. Although smaller insects are their principal diet, they have been known to capture prey as large as Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris).

In fall, mantids mate and the female sometimes rewards the male for his services by biting off his head and eating most of him. This is really no big deal, since the male wouldn't make it through the winter anyway, and his protein contributes to helping the female produce healthier eggs. When the fertilized eggs are mature, the female produces a frothy substance from the tip of her abdomen and intersperses them throughout. The mass hardens into a Styofoam-like egg case, or ootheca.

After several warm days in late March or early April, the eggs hatch and about 50 or so ant-sized nymphal mantids emerge, sometimes getting a jump on life by cannibalizing each other. Through a series of molts, the nymphs get progressively larger through the spring and summer, and by October they've developed enough to mate and produce yet another generation of Carolina Mantids.

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

POSTSCRIPT: The egg case pictured above actually hatched out in May 2001. See It's A Boy! And A Girl! And A Boy, And A Girl, And A Boy, And . . . .

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NOTE: Be sure to scroll down for an account of all birds banded or recaptured during the week, as well as some other interesting nature notes.

"This Week at Hilton Pond" is written & photographed
by Bill Hilton Jr., executive director of
Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History.

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8-14 Oct 2000

Yellow-rumped Warbler
(Immature birds show little black on head or body feathers)

Tennessee Warbler
(green back, no tail spots, long thin beak are diagnostic in fall)

The following species were banded this week (some are pictured above or on other weekly pages):

Magnolia Warbler--3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet--1
Tennessee Warbler--1
Eastern Phoebe--1
Yellow-rumped Warbler--2
American Goldfinch--2
Gray Catbird--1
Wood Thrush--1
Eastern Tufted Titmouse--1
White-throated Sparrow--1
Eastern Towhee--1
Mourning Dove--1


12 species
16 individuals

NOTE: This week's totals are very low for fall migration, despite six 12-hour netting days.

122 species
38,099 individuals

All text & photos © Hilton Pond Center

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Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is a non-profit research & education organization in York, South Carolina USA; phone (803) 684-5852. Directed by Bill Hilton Jr., aka The Piedmont Naturalist, it is the parent organization for Operation RubyThroat. Contents of this Web site--including articles and photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with the express written permission of Hilton Pond Center. All rights reserved worldwide. To obtain permission for use or for further assistance on accessing this Web site, contact the Webmaster.