mantidfly round-up

First a Nova Scotia post, then some flowers, and now an insect post. Yup… things may seem a little confusing around “here” for the next couple of days as I post a few last bits and pieces from the trip to Nova Scotia while also catching up on insect and other activity here at the farm.

This little piece has been kicking around in my draft folder since July 7th and I’m now feeling somewhat guilty for not posting it a little sooner. Two days before we left on our trip, I found a mating pair of Brown Mantidflies (Climaciella brunnea) on a Milkweed leaf (see below – click on image for larger view). The time was around 7 p.m. on July 6, 2006.

On another leaf closer to the to top of the plant, there was a third Mantidfly — this one looked like a female to me (see below). I may be able to tell males and females apart now. The shape of the abdomen seems to be somewhat different. Anyhow, I’m not sure what “she” was doing – but she looked a little dejected — if, indeed, Mantidflies can look dejected.

At around 11 a.m. on July 7th, I returned to check on the Mantidflies and found the mating pair in exactly the same place as the night before. The lone Mantidfly was also sitting right where she had been on the previous evening. By later that day, everyone seemed to have moved on. We left on our trip the following morning, so I’m not sure how long the Mantidflies stayed around in the Milkweed patch. I did go back to have a look around yesterday morning (July 21) and actually found one Mantidfly on a plant, but all the rest must have moved on or expired.

I should probably mention that the thing attached to the mouth parts of the Mantidfly in the top photo is a pollinium – a sticky little pollen sac from a Milkweed flower. I’ve noticed that Mantidflies often have one or more pollinia stuck to their feet or their mouth parts. While I have yet to see a Mantidfly so heavily burdened that it can’t get around, I have often found hover flies, leaf-cutter bees and other insects hanging dead from milkweed flowers after they failed to extricate themselves from the sticky sacs.

Well, this is probably my last report on the Mantidfly activity for 2006, so here’s a brief round-up of discoveries and observations made this year:

1.) The Mantidflies did return to the same patch of Common Milkweed quite close to the same day as last year (actually about a week and a bit early). If all goes well, I’ll be watching for them at the same location in 2007.

2.) Some of the Mantidflies were observed and photographed engaged in a weird motion — a rapid rocking-back-and-forth motion, which may be a mating display. I saw the behaviour repeated three times over a few days. I believe that those insects performing the motion were males.

3.) Mantidflies were observed mating — and based on one observation, the pair remained together for at least 16 hours.

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7 Responses to “mantidfly round-up”

  1. Peter Says:

    A lucky day for us readers, 3 posts! I love the first picture, exceptional bit of photography there. My new wall paper for the week :) I imagine you are correct that the rocking motion is a mating display, I think there is quite a few similar insects that do the same (some spiders too?), assuming I am remembering my “Buggin’ with Ruud” viewings correctly.

  2. Xris (Flatbush Gardener) Says:

    Magnificent creatures. H. R. Giger has nothing on them.

  3. Ontario Wanderer Says:

    I’ve not seen Mantidflies so I really enjoyed your photos. The first one is really special. I love getting close and personal with insects.

  4. burning silo Says:

    Peter – Thanks! Well three posts in one day is the exception — one is usually the most I can muster! I like that first shot as well. I’ve tried to get a really good head shot of one of these for awhile and that’s about the best so far. Considering the size of the Mantidfly, I didn’t expect to get so much detail. I believe you’re right about the similar mating displays of other insects and also the spiders (behaviour such as drumming on webs to attract the attention of female spiders, etc…). That’s really the only explanation I can come up with for this type of behaviour as it’s so erratic looking.

    Xris – I too regard them as magnificent creatures – small though they are. I could actually imagine Giger being inspired by the Mantidfly — especially the way that the legs attach to the bodies. Isn’t that unusual? It’s almost got a mechanical appearance.

    OW – Regarding getting close and personal with insects — me too. I love these cameras, and especially that they have LCD screens so that I can watch the insects that I’m photographing. Often, I watch an insect for awhile before, after or while I’m shooting photos. I kind of think that’s how I’m learning so much about their behaviour… because I’m not just photographing them, but spending time watching them through the lens of my camera. Of course, that takes a lot of battery juice, which is why I always carry spare batteries for both cameras when I’m out shooting insects!

  5. robin andrea Says:

    Now I know you are really home, magnificent photographs of mantidflies. That first shot is quite spectacular. What a great study of their behaviors, too.

  6. Mick Gordon Says:

    Your ants are absolutly stunning. You have a fantastic blog.

  7. burning silo Says:

    Robin – I was thinking that while writing up this post — everything back to “normal” now!

    Mick – Thanks! Glad you are enjoying the blog.