11/14/2021: … Predatory roaches at Roach Crossing?
Well I’m finally doing it. Going off the mental deep end and working with mantids again.
I’ve always been fond of mantids (feels weird to say that out loud) and they were definitely one of my gateway bugs when I was younger. My parents love to tell the story of the Chinese mantid ooths that we left indoors for too long when I was in 5th grade and how they swarmed the house one warm December day. The sheer size of a wild adult female Chinese mantid is quite awe-inspiring to a kid who would imagine something of that presence more suited to a tropical rainforest somewhere far away.
Mantids are, after all, essentially predatory cockroaches, having split from them recently enough for me to joke about it. While not intimately intertwined like cockroaches and termites, if you look apathetically enough at a mantid you’ll see a very leggy, stretched out cockroach. Even the “raptorial forearms” of a mantid can be seen on roaches that have found something particularly tasty, as they grab a nugget with their forelegs and carry it off to consume.
So overall, it made sense to get back into these captivating members of the Dictyopteran clade. We may have lost our strictly predatory cockroaches millions of years ago (or perhaps an extant roach has gained these behaviors and we simply haven’t documented it yet?), we do have mantids. While cockroaches reign supreme in intelligence, I will give mantids heavy credit where it’s due: they are some of nature’s best killing machines. Everything about their physiology from their morphology to coloration has been honed to create an organism capable of grappling and eating prey with otherwise unassailable defenses. The videos and images of Chinese mantids eating hummingbirds are a mighty testament to the sheer dexterity and mastery of precision these sticks with legs can be.
Some of my favorite mantids are, not surprisingly, very roachy. Deroplatys sp., Gonatista grisea, Mantoida maya, and Metallyticus sp., are all in my sights and it will be a good challenge and endeavor to make these regularly available. I’ll be getting a mantids section going soon so stay tuned!