I’ve heard of birds eating spiders and spiders eating birds–but who knew that praying mantises can catch hummingbirds!
The photo here proves mantises can turn the tables on birds. It was submitted to National Geographic Magazine’s “Your Shot” feature and was picked as one of the “Daily Dozen” images featured on September 2.
Photo by Sharon Fullingim, published on National Geographic Your Shot
“Like many bird watchers in our area, we keep hummingbird feeders filled in our front yard, from April until October,” says Sharon Fullingim, who submitted the photo to “Your Shot.” “Black chinned, broad tailed, rufous, and calliope hummingbirds visit them, and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I was greeted with this shot this week. I’ve seen the mantis hanging around the feeders before, but didn’t quite believe it would ever ‘score’ lunch!”
National Geographic colleague Marilyn Terrell submitted the photo and caption to Neatorama, a popular blog that shares neat stories. From there the hummingbird-catching mantis quickly found its way to the social media site Digg.
Now the photo of the mantis catching the hummingbird has become a Web phenomenon, much like another “Your Shot” photograph, featuring the squirrel crashing a couple’s photograph in Banff.
This is not the first time a mantis snaring a hummingbird has been documented. Bird Watcher’s Digest published photos of a praying mantis catching a hummingbird earlier this year.
A quick perusal of YouTube finds that mantises are accomplished hunters of a range of species, including mice.
The National Geographic profile of the praying mantis describes the insect as a formidable predator. “They have triangular heads poised on a long ‘neck,’ or elongated thorax. Mantids can turn their heads 180 degrees to scan their surroundings with two large compound eyes and three other simple eyes located between them.
“Typically green or brown and well camouflaged on the plants among which they live, mantis lie in ambush or patiently stalk their quarry. They use their front legs to snare their prey with reflexes so quick that they are difficult to see with the naked eye. Their legs are further equipped with spikes for snaring prey and pinning it in place,” says the Nat Geo profile. You can read more on the praying mantis page.
On the other hand, hummingbirds are tiny birds, smaller, and presumably lighter, than some insects.
Mantises are cool insects and I have enjoyed watching a number of them in my yard. But I’m relieved that they are not of a size large enough to prey on humans, say about as large as this one downstairs, in the courtyard of National Geographic headquarters:
Photo of praying mantis scultpture by David Braun