Flowers are full of prayers in the month of August. On a half-mile walk in an area overgrown with pink silk floss blossoms, wild phlox and butterfly plant, I spied thirty-three mantises praying for prey today. Brown like a twig or green like a leaf, Stagmomantis californica waits upside down, underneath or smack in the center of the flower. At the moment, butterflies frequent the yellow blossoms in this area the most, so that’s where the majority of mantises lurk. I’ve seen them eating fritillaries, bees, skippers and, yes, their own mates. No one seems to be able to explain that seemingly deviant behavior of species survival.
A photographer friend of mine used to find these camouflaged little creatures everywhere and post them to Flickr. There had to be hundreds even thousands of them out there but I never saw any. I had mantis envy. I was determined to learn how to see them.
I figured it was like finding mushrooms. In Iowa, where I was raised, folks enjoy picking and eating wild morels. (You best know exactly what you’re looking for because there are deadly poisonous mushrooms.) The light brown, spongelike fungus blends well with the leaves and earth. Whenever I went mushroom hunting with my parents they’d have bags full while I’d come up empty handed.
In art classes you’re taught to look at the positive and negative space. It’s kind of like that with hunting mantises. Hmm — I wonder if that technique will work for mushrooms?
~Sherry Novak, author of the soon to be released novel The Chick Sexer.