Saturday, August 19, 2006

A NEW LOOK the Praying Mantis 2

"Hi, I pray before AND after each meal"--this guy looks too much like an alien.

I have did extensive close-up views of the praying mantis last year. You can find them under "all pictures" if you look around a bit. I still have a number of pictures I never published here from then. After finding two of them on my deck I decided to get back to take some new shots of them with some bit of new ideas. I had thought of allot of new angles and possible shots. So I got started when I put this female in a large special jar. A warning here--taking a praying mantis into your house could get it killed very quickly. If it gets trapped somewhere you can't get too it--or flies into a fan--there are many things. NEVER put them or any other insect in USED COFFIE CANS THEY STILL CONTAIN TOXINS FOR BUGS AND WILL KILL many insects or spiders you put in them. I learned that lesson 20 years ago, so it may not be true anymore--but I just be safe and buy clear glass or plastic food jugs.

"Mantis baby picture"

The background here was NOT done in Photoshop (or any other photo-program). I like that. In my humble opinion, I think some people sometimes use a bit too much Photoshop or other photo-editors. You can shoot excellent pictures in-field if you try. Shooting RAW gives you a chance to somewhat do both. 95% of my pictures are un-touched and are straight from the camera. I am proud of getting a shot right from the camera. But don’t take that wrong, I have several photo-related graphic art projects I have done in Photoshop. I am also proud of them. Have some interest in the idea of changing, blending and morphing photos so doing making artistic creations (like that girl at the train station) in Photoshop with layers and filters and color lighting controls. I enjoy getting something right when I do this. As far as I recall I have noted every graphic I have done on this site. (That means like the above picture, I may use opical illusions, but this picture has not been edited with a computer and could have been taken completely with a 35mm slide film) The same is true for nearly all my natural history photos.

THE MAIN IDEA is if it is a complete true-life natural picture I want I try to get it in the moment so I don’t have to worry about doing much work on it later. I learn my cameras and usually do everything completely manually (even the flash and white balance) (and this does no require expensive in-camera editing). Most pictures are just stamped with my name and
downsized for the net so they can't be stolen very well and most of all they don't take a week to hour to load on your computer! Even if you have the quickest computer--it would take hours to load huge JPEGs and in TIFF weeks. If I try to post a large file by accident I know it right away because I come back to my computer a half hour later and blogger is still working on posting the file!

When I found this newly molted girl I figured she stood a serious chance of being killed by the backyard cat. So I took her carefully inside for some pictures. Some friends of mine actually showed me her first. Here you can see it's killer power and claws. These are of course NOT poisons, but will crush the life out of any insect they can catch. They will even take food if offered--BUT do not feed them human foods! As I will note later--be very careful when or if you ever do this or you might learn the hard way what can happen when a praying mantis or other insect gets loose in the house.

This was a real a medium high iso shot of it on a small box on my lap. You can probably tell from the phone in the background kind of how large she is.

There are going to be some underexposed shots coming up here. As I said I usually shoot straight from the camera. I suppose I could go back and pull the CD with the right serial number for these pictures buried in my archives or hope it’s on one of my five hard disks. But instead I figured after trying one, they actually give content to the image. I think that these underexposed pictures are not so bad after all. I don’t know what this looks like, but to me it almost gives an impression of the secret world this creature. Having to hide in the shadows or in the brush waiting to pounce on it’s pray with a quick prayer. Of course they don’t really pray? But they look for it? If you want to buy a brighter one--e-mail me and we can make a deal for a CD. Some may look better brighter and some may not. Shot in RAW, I have allot of flexibility with these pictures.

She has been touched by a human, and she feels contaminated. I have seen more "emotions" in praying mantises then any other insect. From rage to fear to getting used to people--they do things that are usually only possible in vertebrate animals. They have a super high powered condensed brain. She needs to clean herself after being captured by me.

Most people have not got a good look or even know at all how much insects clean themselves. Yes they do, to what would be an obsessive degree in humans. They clean themselves just like your cat or dog does. Now you can see this as I continue to try to get people to understand insects and spiders are important parts of nature, works of art, and many things to teach us--we must change our view of them as we are the only ones smart enough to do so. (BELOW)

She continuues to clean herself--
Showing those spikes and knives that are so deceptive when looked at in another angle.

The tips of her formidable weapons cleaned for the kill

SPIDERS DO NOT SPREAD DISEASE -In fact I have never heard of a case of a spider carrying a disease. The main reason is for this is that spiders do not actively hunt or eat people. They only bite in self defense. Therefore they are not exposed to human and vertebrate infections. I might be wrong here---but to the best of my knowledge there is no spider bite that will actually cause a disease because of a "dirty spider". Spider incessantly clean themselves with a very powerful saliva which keeps them clean and from developing infections. And the acids and enzymes in there mouthparts do not pass diseases along because one spider hardly ever has the terror of biting one person and then the next with enough danger of a disease staying on its' fangs. When bugs clean themselves it is not different then watching your dog clean himself. None at all. The real “eeew thats gross!” is all in your head. Such crap belongs in B movies.

Each of her delicate antenna--

THERE IS NO DISEASE CARRYING SPIDER and the mantis keeps itself quite clean as well as you can see. ‘BUGS’ ARE NOT DISEASE RIDDEN! -In fact I have never heard of a case of a spider carrying a disease that effects humans. And most insects have far less harmful infections and the other kind of “bugs” then we do on our skin. Exterminators would hate me to say this--but bugs are usually surprisingly clean. Extreme exceptions exist of course, like flies and some cockroaches. Your average bug is not a septic mess at all. The main reason is for this is that spiders and other insects do not actively hunt or feed on people. They only bite in self defense. Therefore they are not exposed from human to human as happens in vectors like mosquitoes or animal to human and thus vertebrate diseases. I might be wrong here in very rare cases---but to the best of my knowledge there is no spider bite that will actually cause a direct disease.

But the worst kinds will cause a kind of horrible flesh-eating reaction (Brown Recluse)- that is caused by enzymes built to break down their pray for some odd reason have a very serious reaction to human tissue. Being bitten by a "dirty spider", NO. If it’s not on the top list of dangerous spiders your probably fine. There is allot of Hobo spider hubbub on the web, but I take it with a huge grain of salt. Don’t handle any spiders with your bare hands--but don’t panic and kill them because you think it looks like a brown recluse or hobo-spider. I have had such a hard time finding a brown recluse I have yet to photograph one. I have only seen one alive on my own in my whole life. However ANY BITE OR STING from anything can become infected. Whenever I get a bite I let it bleed if it does for a couple of minute, then I clean it with rubbing alcohol several times (or wipes). Spider incessantly clean themselves with a very powerful saliva which keeps them clean and from developing infections. And the acids and enzymes in there mouthparts do not pass diseases along because one spider hardly ever has the terror of biting one person and then the next with enough danger of a disease staying on its' fangs. When bugs clean themselves it is not different then watching your dog clean himself. None at all. The real “eeew that gross” is all in your head. Such crap belongs in B movies.

Down to the very tip!

Most people don’t' know this but even cockroaches have been known to clean themselves after touching humans. Unlike what exterminators want you to believe, bugs are normally incredibly clean. Using high powered natural disinfections to fight off everything from molds to injuries, they have to clean themselves several times a day. Often more. Many insects are compulsive at cleaning and when captured are found to be incredibly clean biologically. The idea that insects carry germs is often an urban MYTH. However, flies and flees, ticks and mosquitoes--to name a few deadly ones--have been responsible for horrible human tragedy. Flies do clean themselves, but they are still the dirty insects. Views of them at very high macro often shows molds and other things growing on there skin. If they were somehow capable of being larger--they would stink way worse then any pig or even an obsessive person!

Again all important deadly arms--she will do this every time I handle her.

--Flies still have powerful chemical aids to keep from getting sick while inside rotten meat or some other terrible place. This is so they don’t' get sick. Mosquito’s and flees carry disease through there blood hopping--very much like a hypodermic needle being used by multiple people, an infected mosquito then spreads it to other people. Mosquitoes have been estimated to have killed more people then all the wars in all of history. Are war with them continues with the West Nile outbreak. Malaria continues to ravage poor nations. My take on it is to use repellents, nets, and be careful to learn how to ware more long sleeved cloths when you can if you can stand it.

The other antania cleaned--

Take a look at this move! I managed to catch it, this is how she cleans her back legs. She won't stop, until everything is cleaned!

Down to the next back leg and those death clamp arms are used to lean the head as well as the her neck cleaned with a form of saliva similar to what dogs and cats do.

And finally she cleans and checks on everything with her feelers--

Now we got a clean Praying Mantis.

"Outside of the box"

Here she is on that box again. I must say again here that I have many years of experience handling insects. I brought her inside because I know the dangers and I know how to "read" insect. I can anticipate before they fly away and stop them---I know what signs to look for. There are many tricks you have to know in order to handle a praying mantis safely--both for you and the mantis. If you just grab one you run the risk of hurting it and you will get pinched and bit. I strongly recommend you let them on your way. This is no BS here, it has taken me many years to "read bugs" and know how they will respond. Watching them and photographing them since I was a kid and now far more actively. I usually know what she will probably do and even think several steps ahead. Very much like reading a dog or another animal. Training is not all that complex, and it would not take long for me to teach someone how to properly handle insects and spiders--it then becomes however a learning point. And the more experience with it, the better. The more bugs you catch the better you get at catching them. Knowing if the spider will drop out of it's web to escape or go up to it's hideout. I just picked most of this up over the years of being interested since I was a very young kid. My parents don't even know when I started getting into bugs, it's about as far back as I remember. Knowing how close to get to a praying mantis with your camera before it will fly away. Knowing how to use a net effectively to capture large amounts of specimens. Knowing how to put your subject in a pose that DOES NOT REQURE any kind of KILLING or even chilling. In these days of high-resolution digital cameras, I think the days of rickety discolored or broken up insect parts is over. We now have an inexpensive way to collect the insects we love without hurting them. That is really cool.

I am an amatur here when it comes to all this--but digital power holds new promase for -------------------------------------------conservation of species

It's time we put away those ugly colored jars and broken up bug collections and begin to do PASSIVE SURVAYS. Only capturing an insect to photograph it. How to setup a number of shots that will confirm it's species. Most can be fully described on surface in less then 8 good shots. In this instant and digital age--and with more and more of wildlife habitat being destroyed--we need to start to think of bug collections that are DIGITAL. My bug collection is now DIGITAL entirely. I made at least 3 GOOD insect collections in my life. All of them eaten by ants, broken in moving, or lost. The bottom line is no matter how much you try they fall apart and don't survey allot of value. I think that the idea of a digital bug collection
that requires no killing of the specimen and can be carried on a small chip that fits in your hand is the way to go into the future. I am proud to here more and more insect and spider photographers are NOT KILLING the subjects they photograph. It's time to put away the poison and jars and all the chemical junk and just take high-res shots that can be done with camera's costing less then $200 these days. Have you ever dropped a bug collection worth 100s of dollars? I have. So many things can go wrong with them I am surprised they have held on as long as they did at all. I think digital revolution and computers should put an end to useless killing of insects. Details are so fine now that you just can't get anything better that you will ever need, think about, or use in a regular collection. -Anyhow, that's how I feel.

When people ask me if I have a bug collection I tell them "it's on my computer" and part of it is on the Internet".

Here 5 eyes are visible. As wasps, bees and most other insects have--the two main eyes see very well--but an extra 3 "simple eyes" are probably there for orientation. By knowing where the sun is and other light positions, these eyes can warn of an impending shadow of doom or survey as a guide from the sun. These eyes are not much more then motion and light detectors--but they are highly developed here so they are probably needed. There are still many mysteries about insects which have not been solved. This topic is one I need to look up.

I know her from her slight actions and posture and thus can usually forecast both how she feels and if she is planning something (like flying away). The same is true with bees, wasps, and spiders. I can move an orb weaver to any part of the web I want--send her to her hideout for some good shots--bring her back out--and back again. I did a demonstration of this and everybody thought it was awesome. No magic, and no I am not talking supernatural stuff. I just know how they react to certain things by touching the web in the right way. Temperament experience is necessary here. I still have allot of learning to do with many more species. This is a case of it looks very easy but without the right knowledge it could end in disaster for the praying mantis. If you keep one as a pet--read stuff about them and treat them with very delicate hands. There are books on line that I have seen and some petstores sell them as pets. How to "read insects" and spiders is something I picked up after years of experience. It is like reading any other animal, like reptiles, dogs or dangerous fish. It takes a great deal of time to get to know how to handle dangerous insects and most of all know how to handle insects without hurting THEM. They praying mantis is NOT DANGEROUS. Humans unknowingly harm many kinds of insects simply because they are fragile and we are so large. Keep that in mind.

"I can see you, what do you want, what do you want?! what do you WANT!"


With most insects however, we are far more dangerous to them then they are to us. We simply don't know our own strength and just a small squeeze can break there limbs or cause bleeding and harm them in internal other ways. Insects and spiders are very fragile creatures to us-bite and sting is a very last resort.--you have to be extremely gentle with them. NEVER use tweezers on a living insect--they almost always break and cut off legs or even cause internal injuries that will kill the insect you are trying to catch. Just a slight squeeze is all that is needed to break off a leg or a wing or crush the body of an insect. When picking up an insect you should just be sure that it can handle it. Be very very gentle, and watch it's responce. The praying mantis will at first try to do nothing but fly away (after it's adult molt stage). Getting experence about this stuff can be helpful but if there is only one way to get it then start gentle and read as much as you can. There are books on keeping a praying mantis as a pet, or a cricket, or other species. The basics are not to harshly react if they bite or attack you--that quick reaction could kill the insect if your not ready. Then when picking them up only hold them by there body--never by one leg or a number of legs. Hold only tight enough to hardly keep it between two fingers--very gently. Get a feel for that. After a while a praying mantis will begin to trust you. They are smart and are capable of realizeing that people are not a threat (more or less).

There are just allot of things you have to be taught by mentors and or hard-experience over the years because you had to learn a lesson the hard and painful way if you did what I mostly did. If I had not got some mentor help--I would not be able to do allot of the stuff I can do with spiders and insects now. Yah, that dreaded feeling of guilt is difficult when I hurt or kill an insect by accident. It still happens. I just never gave up and persisted my interest until I found out series knowledge about how to hanldle both dangerous and fragile species. I am not good enough a writer to put together a book on handling insects--but there are lots of good books out there---if you want to know how not to hurt insect and spider pets--there may be some books available. Knowing an animal well is to put yourself in the mind and idea of being that small of a subject.
E-mail me from this site if you want any tips--I don't mind and enjoy hearing from other people interested in Photography, insects and spiders. Don't forget a got alot of pictures to post--but recently I have been into the bugs for summer.

Different positions of a flash can bring out different colors and different angles of view.

Let them do the walking and learn there expressions. Don't fear but RESPECT there space. People often think it's just an phony ego trip to say "I have years of experience, don't try this at home"-- Like in those popular reptile hunter TV shows. They very rarely get bit if ever because they know what they are doing. People see those shows, often drink a few beers (or not) and go "there's nothing to that--I can catch two snakes--take my picture.." Not listening to that notice and fact that experience and training is very required when it comes to dangerous animals of any kind. And it's no ego trip to say "don't try this at home". As I often see on the Discovery Health channel, with rattle snakes--that advice is not respected and it often ends with a dead snake and a very sick and humbled victim with endless medical bills and a new opinion about respecting wildlife and the people in the know. Those kinds of notices have a serious point. Handleing taratuals in the wild for example is something not even I would do without a bit of reserch to brush up on it and some special gear. You must allways remember it's not just yourself it's the animal you are catching. You have to make sure neither of them get hurt. I prefur photography because so often I can take pictures without having to interfere in any way with the subjects I photograph.

Another lighting angle. This is another praying mantis, I found two on my pourch. A friend found one of them and I found the other. I was able to take this picture with a digital wildlife lens from about 6 to 8 feet away. (300mm equiv. 35mm).

"Night stalk"

This picture was not shot in Sepia. It is just a very low light shot. A praying mantis can get lost behind a dryer or oven. You probably don't want that nightmare. Be careful about any choices you make with insects or any other wild animal. I had to get bit my a chipmunk before I learned not to grab them. And by a rattle snake before learning it's just not a very good idea to have one as a pet, especially if captured from wild. So taking all the blows and bites I have -I have been very LUCKY. Most insects and spiders are not dangerous but can quickly be hurt by handling. Holding a butterfly or moth will literally remove it's scales like feathers off a bird. They do not grow back, and the butterfly or moth will soon be unable to fly and die. There are many things to get to know about insects and spiders as well as just handling them for pictures or fun--if you have any questions--e-mail me and I will get back to you when I can. I don't mind because I want to show people the facts about insects and spiders so that we need not fear them, we can and should just learn to understand and respect them.


Tim said...

Wow! Super cool site! I love those Mantis pictures! Very informative!

Anonymous said...

i dont have time to read all this do they hurt u cuz one time a praymantis left its blood on me my uncle said i was about to die is it true???

Gabe W. Beasley said...

Ah, ok. Your uncle told you that you are about to die from a praying mantis? He's right. You only got about two hours.

One bite and you will turn into a praying mantis. And eventually die as your body grows insect parts and your arms and legs fall off as your DNA gets scrambled while you are changeling into a giant half-human praying mantis.

Just kidding:-)
Your uncle was just joking. They are harmless except for a strong grip and sharp bite but they have no poison and I've been bit and grabbed by there claws countless times. No need to worry at all. Just wash your hands with antibacterial soap or rubbing alcohol well and treat it like any kind of cut with a band aid and stuff.

Anonymous said...

Your site has been very beneficial to me. I am a sophomore in college and I am taking a zoology class and for one of our big projects we have to pick a class and I picked Insecta and I picked a praying mantis. Your site was cool. Could you give me some more information about these creatures. I have read a lot but still do not know a lot about them. That would be great if you could. Thanks!

Gabe W. Beasley said...

Hey, thank you very much for the compliments. SURE just e-mail me if you have any specific questions at g/a/b/e/./b/u/g/m/a/n at I am going to only leave up my e-mail for a while for you to. I will only leave address here for a couple of weeks at the most. So please e-mail me with your address OR contact me at
cameraman916 on Yahoo chat add me if you want. I'm often on aft 7pm-11pm
I might be able to answer a few of your questions. Good luck and great job going to collage!

Sorry it took me so long to respond I've had the flu.

nico said...

i have a praying mantis in my back yard right now and i noticed it is missing part of its back leg i am trying to figure out if it can regrow the leg or if it will just be stuck with it. i would really like to know my email address is

Anonymous said...

I found a mantis in my courtyard yesterday and it got me interested in doing a bit of research. Your site is very informative and full of awesome photography. If you really want to be taken seriously, however, you might consider having someone review your site for grammatical and spelling errors.

Anonymous said...

We have had a praying mantis since birth as a pet. we had him in a good size tank, fed him well and he looked fine. He molted three times and now today he is laying on the bottom of the tank with large bulges in his abdomen. Have you ever heard of this?

Gabe W. Beasley said...

Nice that you have had a good pet. Was he/she molted into having wings yet??

That would be the last molt. These bulges you are seeing may well be wing-buds. If not, then they may be some kind of disease or problem your pet has. I'm sorry to say.

The praying mantis has few enimies including diseases, and even less in a cage. It is unlikely anything that you did. However exposure to some chemicals can make them sick. I would have to see it to know more. If you want, e-mail me a pic.

If they are on the top of the abdomen near the thorax they may well be the developing wings as your mantis reaches time for it's final molt.

Once a praying mantis has reached it's final molt and thus has wings.
After that, it is unable to grow back legs. If a mantis looses it's legs before this final molt into adulthood, it will grow back a new leg should it loose one to a varied degree depending on how old it was.

I wish you the best of luck with your mantis. I'm sorry to hear it's sick if that is the case.

Take care,
Gabe Beasley
future questions you may e-mail me at o/l/n/g/w/b @

Gabe W. Beasley said...

Yes, no need to keep stating the obvious. I admit that I quickly typed some of my articles. Do you have any idea how hard it is to build a website like this?

Just to spell check these old articles, would probably take 4-6 hours or more. I have always felt that writing what I know and feel is more important then perfection when it comes to spelling and grammar skills.

Going back to fix all the old errors and articles would be a really big job I don't have time for. Please excuse these errors. This site is about art and science, nobody is perfect. If I am obsessive about spelling and grammar my ability to express myself is lost.

I have gotten enough e-mails about grammar and spelling! Please know I am painfully aware of these past mistakes and recently have made serious efforts in spell checking.

I cannot spell check where I write this file. It's a complex process of cut and paste and then removing hidden characters that cause line breaks and make the text look bad. So fixing past errors probably won't happen anytime soon but new articles are sure to be better.

Gabe Beasley
Mostly Macros

Anonymous said...

very cool...i just found a praying mantis on top of the turntable int he parlor. Just in that praying pose. Hasn't moved for hours. Just sits there. I will leave it alone - only thing is, I have cats. But so far it seemed to survive, course I do not know how long it's been in the house. I would like to capture it and place it in the 20 L gallon fish tank as a pet (it is an empty tank, btw), but I am afraid I'll do more harm than good.

Still, very cool pics

Vervain said...

my father won't let me get a praying mantis unless its from a site that says their guarentted to arrive alive. I can't find a website that offers that. I cna't find ant out in maine where I live.
Please Help!!!

Anonymous said...

Vervain, I think I know a good site for you, I ordered some mantises a week ago from mantis place and the lady who runs it is great! She was so friendly and helpful and gave me a great deal. She would make sure you got your mantises alive.