NEBRASKAland October 2017

NEBRASKAland Magazine is dedicated to outstanding photography and informative writing with an engaging mix of articles and photos highlighting Nebraska’s outdoor activities, parklands, wildlife, history and people.

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Page 41 of 67

42 NEBRASKAland • OCTOBER 2017 Story and photos by Chris Helzer B ecause of their size and distinctive look, praying mantises are among Nebraska's most recognizable insects. Most escape notice because of their camouflage and penchant for remaining stationary while hunting, but when you see one on your screen door or perched on a backyard flower, it's hard to ignore. Predators There are many predators in the insect world, but few as audacious as the praying mantis. First of all, they're big – big enough to take down just about any invertebrate, and even some small vertebrates. Their long, folded front legs have scary-looking spikes to help ensure that any prey they grab can't escape. Mantises are well known for being extremely well camouflaged, a quality they take full advantage of while waiting to ambush unwitting victims. In addition, while they're sitting still, praying mantises can turn their heads 180 degrees to scan for prey (and for danger). They are the only insects with that ability. Finally, once they catch their prey, mantises have an unnerving way of feeding on them. Many invertebrate predators, including species like assassin bugs, robber flies and spiders, employ a venom that quickly incapacitates their victims and liquefies their insides. The predator then neatly and efficiently sucks out and ingests, before discarding the otherwise intact carcass. The mantis, on the other hand, grasps its victim in its strong Nebraska's Praying Mantises Of the three large mantis species found in Nebraska, the Carolina mantis is the only one native to the state. It doesn't get much more than 2 inches in length.

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