Garden Insects

Prey of the Praying Mantid


Before I get into the garden horrors of this afternoon, let’s recap. Last week you may remember I put a few photos on Twitter about the praying mantid (Mantis spp.) I discovered in my Garden of Goods and Evils. I was working on one of my patios, watering some plants in a raised bed. It was hot. Very hot. And humid, although we were in need of rain. That’s why I was was watering with the hose. It was late evening and the mosquitoes were bugging me (yeah, that’s good) to the point where I just wanted to get back in the house. It was at this moment that something caught my eye. A flittering. A fluttering. A rapid movement under the topside one of my arbors covered in vines.

“What in the world is that?” I said to myself out loud. (I do enjoy a good conversation with myself). It looked like a moth that was really enjoying something on my Aristolochia vine. But there were no open flowers. I finished watering, put the hose down on the ground, and walked over the arbor. I stared up in amazement, nay, shock and awe.  The moth was not enjoying itself. A praying mantid was enjoying the moth. The taste of the moth. The head to be exact.


I exclaimed for my husband to get back outside. “You won’t believe what I am seeing!” I yelled toward the house. I ran inside, grabbed my old cell phone and my Canon 60D (only cell phone shots on this blog post). I should have grabbed my tripod too, but I was in a rush.


Back through the sunroom and out into the yard, I slowly crept up to the arbor. She was still there, feasting. The first images were blurred by the wings of the moth flapping as he tried to escape. Or perhaps it was just nerves twitching as the brain was being quickly eaten by the praying mantid.


Even after the moth ceased to move, the praying mantid would dip her head into the neck cavity of the moth, grab a juicy bite, raise her head, and turn to look at me. I was interrupting. Nonetheless, it made it tricky to get a clear photo in the fading light, under the arbor. It was difficult to look away, though it should have been easy.


I continued to take photos with both cameras until I could no longer stand to be eaten myself, by mosquitoes of course.

A few days later passing back through the patio, my husband said to me, “Whoa, check this out, a good photo opportunity.”


Indeed, another (or the same?) praying mantid was hanging out on the flowering stems of my potted chives. Back into the house I ran for my camera and phone.  I was really wishing I had grabbed my extension tubes for my 50mm so that I could practice some macro photography with the little dude. But alas, my time was once again shortened by the constant slapping of mosquitoes on my arms and legs.

Today I was walking across the patio to dump my compost bucket out back when I saw a beautiful monarch butterfly gently nestled in the stems of my chives. OH, wow, I thought. It is just sitting there in the light rain, perhaps taking a break from flying. I went ahead and made a deposit into the compost pile and returned to the patio garden area.

I again looked in on the butterfly. But the more I stared, the more I really began to look, I realized it wasn’t moving at all. And there was something odd about the wings. The wings were all backwards or upside down. Pointed in the wrong direction. No! No! No! Could it be? I slowly peered down into the chives into the wings of the monarch. I shook my head (which was more than the butterfly would ever do again for its head was missing) and stepped back. Did I see that correctly? I stepped back up to the pot of chives and looked down again among the stems. Indeed, the butterfly’s head was gone. I quickly looked up and down the chive stems for the praying mantid. Who else is currently in my garden eating heads? I don’t want to draw from stereotypes, but lets face it. Who was recently eating the head of a moth and was recently seen on the chives? A praying mantid. I once again ran back into the house (hey, with all this running why am I so behind on losing weight?), grabbed my phone and returned to the scene of the crime.


I took a few photos in the rain.


Then I began to look again for the culprit. Any culprit.


There she/he was…hanging out calmly on a sage plant about 18″ away from the chives.


I would say she looked guilty, but considering how extremely creepy they look anyway, who knows? Is this enough to convict the praying mantid? Perhaps not.

Well, you just never know what lurks ahead or above in my Garden of Goods and Evils. Perhaps there is something lurking in your garden as well. Take time to observe and you never know what you will find.

Good links with information about the Praying Mantid (Mantis spp.) from Iowa State University Extension and the University of Kentucky College of Ag


Connect with my Facebook Fan Page: Tales from Hort Side


Yours In Garden Horror,

The Garden Maiden

All images and text copyright 2018 The Garden Maiden

Categories: Garden Insects, Observations from My Garden of Goods & Evils | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Can You Help Identify a Summer Spider on Mississippi Native Fern?

This morning I was out back in the garden. Specifically I was checking out my native ferns in my little fern grotto. Camera in hand I captured a couple of photos of this small, brown spider on a fern frond. He/she was about an inch and  a half long, perhaps two inches long.

Summer spider on Mississippi native fern.


After I went inside the house, I tried to search online for entomology sites where I could identify it.  The abdomen seemed soft and fuzzy. There was an obvious stripe down the middle of the head. The leaf he was perched upon was about 12″ above the ground. There is no water near my fern bed, although it did rain over an inch yesterday. We have many trees in our yard and plenty of shade.  I didn’t see any webbing, egg sacs, etc. On the above photo you can see the vertical spines/hairs on the legs. (I thought this was super cool, because I’m practicing using my extension tubes!) I didn’t get a front photo so I don’t have the ability to count his eyes.

My best “guess” is perhaps a grass spider, Agelenopsis spp.? If you can positively identify what I believe is a common spider, please let me know.  I don’t think it is a dark fishing spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus), although it had first crossed my mind. I love learning new things about the natural world around us.

At any rate, he/she is certainly welcome.


Yours in Gardening,

The Garden Maiden


copyright 2017 The Garden Maiden

Categories: Garden Insects, Observations from My Garden of Goods & Evils | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blooming in My Yard: March 22-28, 2015

Late March flowers in my yard.  Copyright The Garden Maiden

Late March flowers in my yard. Copyright The Garden Maiden

There is a lot of bold color in the yard now with the azaleas taking center stage. The butterflies have been thick on the blooms, busier than I remember the past few years. The butterfly below is what I believe to be an Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus). Mississippi butterfly list. Click the image for a bigger view. This would be a great time for a spring party because the landscape does some of the decorating for me.

Late March flowers in my yard.  Copyright The Garden Maiden

Late March flowers in my yard. Copyright The Garden Maiden

But they  aren’t the only ones with magnificent color. For the last week the wisteria has been peaking. I’m hoping what I have is Wisteria frutescens (American wisteria), but I am not sure.  The American species is reported to be less aggressive than the Asian species.  Time to do some taxonomic work. Wisteria escapes from landscape cultivation. You can see it escaped into the wild, blooming high up into the tree canopies on the road sides, or you can find it with maximum blooms trained as a standard and trimmed to a 4′ shrub in people’s front yards. My own wisteria (which I dug up from under some shrubs in my yard and transplanted onto an arbor) is more of a loose vine that trails up and over an arbor and onto a nearly dead fruit tree. The dying tree makes an excellent structure for the wisteria to climb upon. This is the first year it has bloomed, having planted a volunteer sprout in the spring of 2013. I hope to train another “volunteer” into a standard that will be heavily pruned for a massive amount of flower clusters in the future.

Late March flowers in my yard.  Copyright The Garden Maiden

Late March flowers in my yard. Copyright The Garden Maiden

The wisteria has a very sweet perfume, that lightly scents the air. But if it is spring perfume you are seeking, then I am excited to share my new acquisition:  a banana shrub (Michelia figo). This member of the magnolia family easily perfumes a fifteen by fifteen foot area near my patio. It smells so delicious I want to eat it, or at least whip up a batch of banana daiquiris. It looked really awful at the nursery, but it was the only one. I hope to make it happy and fertilizer it gently all year with fish emulsion to bring it back to full vigor.

Late March flowers in my yard.  Copyright The Garden Maiden

Late March flowers in my yard. Copyright The Garden Maiden


Also blooming now in my front yard, is the native member of the Lamiaceae family: lyreleaf sage. I wrote a bit more about it in a March 2014 post. After it finishes flowering, THEN I’ll mow that part of the yard.

Late March flowers in my yard.  Copyright The Garden Maiden

Late March flowers in my yard. Copyright The Garden Maiden

Although it has been flowering for a while now, the Loropetalum is still quite striking. I guess its pretty easy to see why it has a common name of “fringe flower”.  Have I mentioned my Loropetalum are about 15′ tall? Huge, huge, huge. But you know, I like them like that because they provide a great screen for the rear of my home. Today I was happy to see that the lower area which has thinned out because the branches are so tall (this is what happens when you don’t keep them trimmed to 5-6 feet), now has a lot of new undergrowth. I plan to keep the under branches trimmed to about three feet to keep a good lower screen. Until then I will keep planting other lower shrubs and bulbs that enjoy the space and help to fill in the gaps.

Late March flowers in my yard.  Copyright The Garden Maiden

Late March flowers in my yard. Copyright The Garden Maiden

The final shot for today is a pansy blossom. I got these out of a trash pile that someone had thrown away in changing over from winter color to spring. I can hardly turn away from plants thrown in the trash.

Late March flowers in my yard.  Copyright The Garden Maiden

Late March flowers in my yard. Copyright The Garden Maiden

Your spry garden friend,

The Garden Maiden

All images and text copyright 2015 The Garden Maiden

Categories: Garden Insects, What's Blooming | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Enhancing pollinator habitat through research, education and design

Keep Mississippi Beautiful

Working to inspire and educate Mississippians to take action everyday to impact, improve, and beautify their community environment.

Fire Gardens

Gulf South pyrogenic landscaping

Easy Wildflowers

Wild flowers from The Forest of Dean

Always Growing

A garden is good for both body and soul

In the Garden with Arkansas Extension Horticulture

Welcome to In the Garden with Arkansas Extension Horticulture, a blog about gardening in Arkansas.

%d bloggers like this: