National Geographic : 1984 Jun
Praying Mantis Hooray for an exciting and beautiful article on in sects. Nonetheless, I wonder if this article is not needlessly perpetuating the myth that "a male [mantid] often ends up as a meal as well as a mate." In writing a chapter on mantid behavior, I searched through all possible scientific litera ture on mantid mating. As far as I could tell, it is the exception rather than the rule that male man tids are eaten by their feisty, voracious mates. One worker reported that mate cannibalism is probably a result of artificial lab conditions and disturbances. Since 1975, we have studied Chinese mantids mating in the lab. Out of about 50 pairs, about five involved females eating their mates, but this was under artificial conditions. I have seen about 20 mating pairs of Chinese mantids and studied their prey in nature since 1975, but have never seen evidence of mate cannibalism. Edward M. Barrows Georgetown University Washington, D. C. Much of the writtenmaterialon mantids is based on laboratorystudies. Most of Dr. Ross's obser vations have been in the wild. He and other au thorities consulted agree that the male "often" ends up the victim of mate cannibalism. Last summer among my blooming cosmos I had a pet praying mantis (February 1984)-she al lowed me to gently stroke her back. One day I no ticed a commotion and quickly snatched a hummingbird from that clutching mantis. The bird lay in my palm-whoever dreamed of hold ing a hummingbird in one's hand. I placed the bird among the ivy vines-it soon recovered and was away. Lucy C. Warner Poca, West Virginia My wife and I especially enjoyed your interest ingly written and beautifully photographed arti cle about the mantids, since we follow their antics regularly on our own shrubs and plants. Unconfirmed reports here state that Universi ty of Florida entomologists have succeeded in mating a praying mantis with a termite, thereby producing a bug that says grace before starting to eat your house. C. Calkin St. Augustine, Florida Letters shouldbe addressedto Members Forum, National Geographic Magazine, Box 37448, Washington, D. C. 20013, and should include sender's address and telephone number. Not all letters can be used. Those that are will often be edited and excerpted.