Rearing notes for our first instar European mantis (Mantis religiosa) nymphs. These originated from a wild collected ootheca at Canyon Trail Park (El Cerrito, California), April 2017.
Rearing Notes 5/13/17-5/??/17:
The European mantis ootheca (Mantis religiosa) that we collected from Canyon Trail Park (El Cerrito, California) has begun to hatch.
On April 10th, we collected what we believed was a viable European mantis (Mantis religiosa) ootheca at Canyon Trail Park in El Cerrito, California. We had initially expected it to hatch very soon, considering the ootheca that we found last year in our backyard hatched on April 2nd, so we were a little puzzled when nothing happened after several weeks. In fact, we decided to put the ootheca into our incubator just a few days ago to try to speed things up or at least help it break diapause if it hadn't already. However, we were surprised to find that it had actually begun hatching this morning!
It was difficult to get an exact count of how many there were, but a rough estimate would be 20 or so. There should certainly be more than that many eggs in the ootheca, so we expect that it continue to hatch over the next several days.
We consolidated all of the new hatchlings into a small deli container and stuck in about a dozen melanogaster fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) and a few random aphids. We just hope that the mantises are able to catch them.
Rearing notes for our European mantis (Mantis religiosa) ootheca collected at Canyon Trail Park (El Cerrito, California).
Our first trip to Canyon Trail Park (El Cerrito, California) of 2017.
It was a nice sunny day today after a rainy and windy week and the season has just started for much of the wildlife around here. We decided to take our first 2017 trip to Canyon Trail Park to see what we could find. We mainly had in mind the three local swallowtails, Battus philenor hirusta (pipevine swallowtail), Papilio rutulus (western tiger swallowtail) and Papilio zelicaon (anise swallowtail) since their host plants are all very abundant there (pipevine, willow, and fennel, respectively). When we got there, we slowly made our way through the trail scanning all the plants, starting with the willows. We didn't find much except for a few western tussock cateripillars (Orgyia vetusta). Next we headed to the fennel, but most plants were small and smothered in all the other weeds there so we couldn't find anything there either. Finally, we made our way to the pipevine, which grows very vigorously at this time of year, but the leaves were completely uneaten and there was not a single egg cluster on any of the vines. We did, however, see several pipevine swallowtails flying along the trail and high up in the trees. Though the butterflies themselves are out, it seems that it is probably slightly too early for them to lay eggs, as the weather has not warmed up quite as much as it should be at this time of year.
Since we didn't have any luck with the swallowtails, we decided to move on and just look around the place for anything else that might be there. Historically, we have found many European mantis (Mantis religiosa) oothecas along the wooden fences around here, but they were always already hatched. However, this time when we looked on the fences, we found two egg cases, one small and clearly open (the case was damaged and the zipper was a mess), but the other one was very large and looked completely perfect in condition and unhatched! The zipper was completely sealed and it looked much cleaner than all the open egg cases we have found in the past; the coloration even looked a bit darker. We eagerly removed and collected the unhatched ootheca from the fence.
When we brought the unhatched ootheca home, we compared it to all the open oothecas found in the past and weighed them all. Sure enough, the one we found today was much heavier, at 0.7 g, while the others hardly registered on the scale, only weighing 0.2 g at the most. Hopefully this ootheca will hatch soon so we don't have to care for it too long and risk it dying. The ootheca we had last year had already hatched on 4/1/16, so it probably won't be long for this to.
While along the trail, the most abundant insects there were by far the damselflies and dragonflies. Dozens, maybe hundreds, were flying around the hill and along the creek. Most of the smaller ones looked like vivid dancers (Argia vivada) and other common damselflies. However, there was a very large red dragonfly in the mix that we decided to catch. Based on the coloration, it looks like a male red skimmer (Libellula croceipennis), though Odonata is not our expertise.
Today we decided to visit Canyon Trail Park (El Cerrito, CA) to see if we kind find anything before the season is truly over.
No more Pipevine Swallowtails (Battus philenor hirsuta), of course, but we did find a complete Genista Broom Moth (Uresephita reversalis) infestation on some plants behind the pipevine. This common moth is a notorious pest in gardens for good reason: the eggs are laid in big clusters and the caterpillars hatch to be gregarious, easily defoliating the small weeds plants they feed on. The ones we found were mostly small ones, no more than third instar, all hiding in their silken nests.
Just walking around Caynon Trail Park, we spotted many small butterflies flying around like various skippers, Edith's Checkerspot (Euphydryas editha), and various hairstreaks. Also, huge red flame skimmer dragonflies (Libellula saturata).
In addition, we found two hatched European Mantis (Mantis religiosa) egg cases along the rim of a fence, a typical place for finding them.
Lastly, we also stepped upon a very blue pigmented Anise Swallowtail fifth instar (they are normally green with only a bit of blue lining each stripe). It was feeding on some fennel that was completely dry and brown, which could possibly explain this odd coloration. It may be hard to tell in the photo, but compared to others that we have seen it is quite blue.
Today as we were on the Ohlone Greenway (Albany, CA) picking pine (Pinus), we found some emerged Anise Swallowtail chrysalises (Papilio zelicaon) and hatched European Mantis (Mantis religiosa) oothecae along a fence.
Alas, it seems more often than not we find things a season too late. Most species of any insect diapause some time in the fall to spring -- pretty much any time but June to August which is when we have the free time to search for them as we are not in school!
Today, without any intention of finding them, we stepped upon five emerged Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon) chrysalises attached along a wooden fence that stretched along the path of the Ohlone Greenway. Near the fence, there are various landscaping trees growing such as pine (Pinus), though there were some native growing American Plum (Prunus americana) trees mixed in. We had previously found Western Tiger Swallowtails (Papilio rutulus) chrysalises attached on a wooden fence in a similar location along the rim of the fence. So perhaps it wasn't too much of a surprise that we found the five emerged Anise chrysalises on the Ohlone Greenway fence, though it was puzzling to us that they were located in a place without any potential host nearby. Of course, the caterpillars sometimes wander quite a distance from their host tree in order to find a suitable location to pupate, but all five of the chrysalises were located very close to each other (some were right next to each other, in fact) which can hardly be a coincidence. We searched for some time our the area, but found no other chrysalises except these. Most likely, we predict that there used to be sweet fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) growing along the path at some point, but they were removed.
Along the same fence, though maybe a block away from the chrysalises, we found four European Mantis (Mantis religiosa) egg cases distanced a few feet from each other. If we were to guess, we'd probably say they came from only two or three females since it is hard to imagine how so many of them found this one spot! Like the chrysalises, two were attached in the corner near the top of the fence formed by the rim; the other two were in a crack formed by two parallel rims.
Both the chrysalises and egg cases were located in the same kind of location as the chrysalises and egg cases that we found on our own fence at home and as the fence at Albany Middle School, clearly indicating some sort of preference. If we were to look for their live counterparts later this year, perhaps in September or October, we will certainly keep this in mind and look at these places.
Update 8/18: We found a ton of emerged cocoons of some tiger moth (Arctia) on the fence behind a plum tree. At least two were parasitized with the emerged tachinid fly puparium still there!
The last installment of rearing notes for our European Mantis (M. religiosa) in the fifth instar . . . Rest in peace.
Rearing Notes 6/29:
It was certainly a notable feat to be the last survivor of the wild-caught newborns. It was a very long run. Farewell and rest in peace, old friend.
Rearing notes for our European Mantis (Mantis religiosa) in the fourth instar, the last survivor from our wild-caught newborns.
Rearing Notes 6/3-6/28:
6/11: Nothing significant worth noting.
Rearing Notes 4/19/16-4/30/16:
Second Instar European Mantis (Mantis religiosa) Eating a Fruit Fly
This timeline is a series of daily posts recording our observations on and experiences with various insects in Albany California and surrounding areas, from 2012-2017. Since we did not publish this site until 2016, posts before that were constructed retroactively. Starting in August 2017, we moved to Ithaca, New York; posts from there on can be viewed at Timeline 2017-present: Ithaca, New York.
August 2017 (49)
July 2017 (121)
June 2017 (79)
May 2017 (77)
April 2017 (91)
March 2017 (35)
February 2017 (12)
January 2017 (10)
December 2016 (12)
November 2016 (26)
October 2016 (49)
September 2016 (84)
August 2016 (94)
July 2016 (99)
June 2016 (53)
May 2016 (21)
April 2016 (4)
January 2016 (1)
August 2015 (3)
July 2015 (3)
June 2015 (2)
June 2014 (3)
May 2014 (1)
April 2014 (3)
March 2014 (3)
December 2013 (2)
November 2013 (2)
October 2013 (5)
September 2013 (11)
August 2013 (15)
July 2013 (9)
June 2013 (5)
May 2013 (4)
April 2013 (3)
March 2013 (2)
February 2013 (3)
January 2013 (2)
December 2012 (2)
November 2012 (1)
October 2012 (2)
September 2012 (2)
August 2012 (5)
July 2012 (1)
June 2012 (1)
Full Species List
(Alphabetical by scientific name)
- Not every species we encounter is necessarily presented on this site, rather a selection of those that were of particular interest to us and that we felt were worth documenting.
- We can't guarantee that all species have been identified accurately, particularly taxa we are not as familiar with.
Battus philenor hirsuta
Coenonympha tullia california
Langia zenzeroides formosana
Orthosia hibisci quenquefasciata
Papilio machaon oregonius
Papilio polyxenes asterius
Samia cynthia advena
Papilio glaucus × Papilio rutulus
Papilio polyxenes asterius × Papilio zelicaon
Araneae (Class: Arachnida)