Double-coned Grass Mantid Episcopomantis chalybea
(Uvarov, 1940)Habitat Range
Vegetation in drier regions.
Free State, Gauteng and Northern Province, to East Africa. Biology
Well camouflaged in dry grasses, where it lies pressed to the stem in wait for insect prey.
Attracted to the entrance light at KK in KTP Nov. 2012Identification
Large (body length 50mm). Eyes and corners of head greatly extended into elongate points, giving head a V-shape when viewed from above. Color varies from uniformly straw to brown/green mottling. In this species, the inner margin of the grasping leg has a row of alternating short and long spines; those on the margins of the tibiae are erect and well separated.Prey and prey capture
Mantids have fierce predatory habits. They have excellent vision and extremely quick reflexes and are able to strike at and successfully capture insect prey in as little as one-twentieth of a second. They are well equipped to carry out their deadly ambush in that their front legs are liberally furnished with rows of spines. The spines on the femur are slightly tilted in one direction, those on the tibia in another direction so that when the two sections are snapped shut the prey is spiked on a kind of mobile gin-trap - no escape. The long spines on the outermost part of the tibia also act as grappling hooks as they are slung outwards over the prey's body. If suitably sized prey comes into view, the mantid slowly turns its head to view the prey and weigh up the possibilities. As soon as the mantid has judged the distance to the prey, the front legs are thrust forwards, moving as fast as lightening. The whole capture is performed with extreme precision and it is rare that prey escapes the grasp.
A mantid can strike in whichever direction its head is pointing. They are not fussy eaters and will happily munch away at anything that comes their way, even insects that share their predatory habits, such as assassin bugs and wasps.
When a mantid begins a meal, it starts with the head or neck, thus cutting out any means of struggle from its victim. This may be an important factor, especially when the prey is bigger than the mantid itself.
Guillotining the head also makes way for the juicier parts - the nourishing tissues that are packed inside the thorax.
Mantids are thrifty eaters and normally manage even the tough legs and head parts, their jaws chewing away from side to side, processing the food into tiny morsels that will pass down through their rather narrow gullets. A mantids menu consists of moths, butterflies, grasshoppers, flies, beetles, caterpillars and even spiders. They will also eat other mantids.http://mantids.de/2.htmlhttp://www.biodiversityexplorer.org/mantids/biology.htm