For day 7 of #30DaysWild I decided to spend a couple of hours practising my stealth tactics during a walk along the coastal path from Penarth to Lavernock. Sometimes I photograph wildlife with my DSLR camera but I also have a point-and-shoot camera with a macro feature that is good for capturing close-up detail. The only trouble is that you need to get the camera as close as possible to your subject – and I am talking close – no more than a couple of inches away. As you might imagine, this tends to freak out and frighten off a lot of creatures, but I find that if I approach slowly, watch the light and shadow, make no noise, then I can often get very close. Here are the ones I didn’t freak out or frighten off today. I think I did quite well.
The correct name for this insect is Praying mantis (or, in fact, Praying mantid as my photos were taken in New Zealand (above) and Cambodia (below) and I’m not sure which species these are), the word ‘praying’ coming from its stance – with its large front legs bent and resting together, the insect looks like it’s praying. However, the word ‘preying’ seems equally appropriate for the mantis as it’s a formidable hunter.
Mantids are masters of camouflage and use this ability to change their colouration to blend in with their surroundings, partly as a way to avoid being eaten by their predators but also, as they are mostly ambush predators themselves, as a way to more easily capture their own victims. They are also masters of the rapid pounce and their diet includes living insects like flies and aphids, crickets, moths, grasshoppers and even cockroaches.
But wait, there’s more. The Praying mantis can also be cannibalistic. When food is scarce, they will eat their own kind, though male mantids are most at risk from the females at mating time. It seems hungry females have a tendency to eat their mates if the males don’t dismount and run away as rapidly as possible after copulation.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I spent a wonderful day on Saturday exploring and examining some of the town of Barry’s wilder green spaces with members of the Glamorgan Botany Group. But, of course, you can’t spend a whole day looking at plants without also seeing an awful lot of the critters that live on those plants and I admit to being a trifle distracted at times … by a sunshine-yellow Crab spider, by fluttering butterflies and buzzing hoverflies, by plentiful dock and shield bugs, by the sad sight of a dead Slow-worm. Some of the lovely old stone houses and churches we passed were pretty cool too!
As I was walking through my local cemetery today, I spotted a very thick, very wet newspaper lying on a fallen tree and I simply couldn’t resist taking a peek underneath. These are what I found, Common shiny woodlice (Oniscus asellus), one of the 45 (yes, 45!) native or naturalised species of woodlice in Britain.
Did you know:
- A woodlouse has fourteen jointed limbs, and breathes using lungs in its rear legs.
- Although it’s a crustacean (like the oh-so-tasty lobsters and crabs), a woodlouse tastes like strong urine. I wonder who the crazy person was who discovered that interesting fact!
- Just like earthworms, woodlice are good for the garden because they produce compost, aerate the soil and help control pests.
- Woodlice prefer damp places because they lose a lot of moisture through excretion (plenty of evidence of that to be seen in my photos!).
- In New Zealand it’s called a slater; in Reading, England it’s a cheeselog; in Devon it’s a chiggy pig; and in Cornwall it goes by the name of gramersow. Do you have a special name for this little critter? Let me know in the comments below.