So there she is, a gnarly-looking praying mantis, the last of the season, and on her last legs. Last spiked forelegs?
From her perch on a cactus in a Vacaville garden, this Stagmomantis limbata is neither praying nor preying. She is staring. She almost resembles a cartoon character with her wide-spaced bulging eyes atop a triangular head and a pencil-thin neck. One antenna up, one trying to stay down.
Ms. Gnarly Mantis doesn't look at all like a skilled ambush predator.
"Hey, there!" I say.
"Hey, there, yourself! Whatcha looking at?"
"Taking a photo of you!"
This species, native to North America, is also known as a bordered mantis, an Arizona mantis or a New Mexico praying mantis.
I know S. limbata as a garden treasure.
"Females are most often fairly plain green (often with a yellowish abdomen), but sometimes gray, or light brown, with dark spot in middle of the tegmina, which do not completely cover the wide abdomen. Hind wings may be checkered or striped yellow," according to Wikipedia. "Males are slender, long-winged, and variable in color, but most often green and brown with the sides of the folded tegmina green and top brownish (may be solid gray, brown, green, or any combination of these). Abdomen without prominent dark spots on top. The wings are transparent, usually with cloudy brownish spots on outer half."
Ms. Gnarly Mantis hung around for three days and then she vanished. A hungry California scrub jay may have nailed her.
Or maybe not...
But she bequeathed us her ootheca before her last goodbye.