Welcome guest poster, Matt, to Wannabe Entomologist. I asked Matt to tell me a bit about himself and his experience. You’ll see from the following that this is one amazing young man (he’s 15!), with a very bright career in entomology ahead of him.
“I’ve been playing with insects for my whole life. I must have seen something when I was like 2 1/2, and that’s when it all started. I believe it was a yellow Tussok caterpillar that sparked my interest. Then, ever since I was like 5-years-old, I told all of my teachers, and other adults, that I wanted to be an entomologist. Now, as I get older, I realize how important they are to the ecosystem. It’s gotten more and more serious over the years and I’ve met so many amazing entomologists, since I’m a member of the Connecticut Entomological Society. Dr. Wagner has been one of my most helpful connections when it comes to Lepidoptera. First it was stag beetles, then it was just beetles. Once I reached middle school, I started to like moths more. I always wondered why they were so under-appreciated. They are such beautiful insects, and I thought they were more interesting than butterflies regarding their life cycle. Then a few years ago (three, to be exact), I became obsessed with sphinx moths; they were just the coolest insects to me. A professor at UCONN actually said that I knew more about them than him and his grad students! That really got me thinking about my future. I am now interested in Saturniids (Giant silk moths) and Sphingidae (Sphinx moths) the most. I rear many species every summer, and I always observe their behaviors.
It fascinated me so much how one caterpillar developed a fake eye just to scare away predators. Others squeak and bite their attacker. Just those actions made me want to learn more. I have come quite far with my art too. I would always illustrate my insects, and now I have taken it a lot more serious and plan on possibly writing a book on natural history (or at least a semi-formal research paper). Life history is my biggest obsession. Just how amazing insects are, and how they live intrigued me. With writing, I am able to put my knowledge in text and share it with people so they can learn about entomology.
I have been breeding exotic mantids for about two years now, but I have always raised mantids that are native to my area. The most fascinating thing about the praying mantis, is that there are thousands of species worldwide and not one is the same. They all have different adaptations to be able to survive in their environment despite every predator wanting to make a meal of them. My mission is to show the beauty of insects through my writing and pictures.”
Next, Matt explains to us about one of the most common misconceptions about praying mantises.
“One of the largest misconceptions of the praying mantis or mantids, is that the female always eats the male’s head after mating. When this occurs, the male’s body can still continue to fertilize the female after being completed mutilated by her. The mantis seems to be very well known for this action yet not many people know the truth about Mantodea life history and mating habits.
Only 2-6 species do this horrific behavior after copulation, and even during! The European mantis (Mantis relogiosa) is the most commonly known for eating the male after sex. Another species that is very agressive during mating, and just predatory in general is the Chinese mantis (Tenodera sinensis). The males of M. religiosa are very thin, making them easy meals for hungry pregnant female European mantids. Most of the tropical mantids such as Orchid mantids, have peaceful pairings. There is a very facinating sexual dimorphism in this species.
The female is a very large bodied insect whereas the males are about 6 times smaller than her and much thinner. When it is time for the males to perform a mating attempt, they will stalk the female for up to an hour carefully analyzing her every move. Then suddenly with with a burst of speed, the male orchid pounces on his target and begins to strum his raptorial arms on her wings. The female will usually then turn around to face the disturbance. Even if she wanted to eat him as he pairs up and connects, she cannot reach her suiter due to the male being so short. So copulation most of the time in Hymenopus coronatus is a success with no territorial issues unless the males do something wrong. This is the truth about the mating behavior of the Praying mantis and most species do not ever eat the head of their mate let alone kill him! This pair is still together almost a week after copulating. The male is no threat to the female so she leaves him alone. Pretty interesting how everything works in the insect world!”
**For lots of amazing pictures and information on mantids, and heaps of other great insects, be sure to look Matt up on Instagram under @mnochisaki14. All photos in post (aside from Ploy’s) supplied by Matt.**