Subject:  Unusual bug near swimming pool
Geographic location of the bug:  Long Beach CA
Date: 09/23/2018
Time: 03:52 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi there,
I was picking up leaves on concrete near our pool and I found this beautiful insect, who almost looked like another leaf or flower.
Thanks for any ideas as to his or her identity.
How you want your letter signed:  Moira

Decapitated Male Mantis

Dear Moira,
This is a decapitated Preying Mantis, and it appears to have been a male.  It might be a male European Mantis, which is pictured on BugGuide.  We can’t think of any real predators (eliminating house cats that do not generally need to hunt to survive) that would eat the head and leave the more nourishing and palatable body behind.  There is much documentary evidence of a female Mantis eating the head of a male that is mating with her.  Though his head is gone, he still goes through the mechanical actions of mating as pictured in this image from our archives of mating Mantids.

Dear bug man,
Thanks for the insight. Wow, that realization certainly ruined my Sunday, not to
mention the mantis’s. I researched how it could still be sentient. It obviously was able to think, because before I knew what it was, I thought it looked parched and dazed. So I poured a tablespoon of water into a dead leaf ‘vessel’ in front of it, and spilled the same amount onto the concrete next to where it stood, which seeped over to its right feet. It reacted by carefully moving its feet out of the water. It was as though it did need water but couldn’t drink it. Two people on Instagram then told me what it was and one of them speculated it was a post-mating male. It even seemed to have eyes, looked at from the front, but now I know otherwise. I read that mantii can survive decapitated and half-eaten for up to six days. Then I researched invertebrates ability to feel pain, concluded that they do feel pain. I went back to it and it was being eaten by ants. I moved it to another garden location, but a couple ants still clung to it. I asked my husband later if it would have been kinder to have killed it and put it out of its misery. He thought so. By then it was dark, we were walking the dog, and it would have been hard to find. If I ever come across this again, is there a humane way to assist an insect in dying? Thanks again Moira
There is no need to feel bad about what happened to the male Mantid.  Since this happens so frequently, it must be advantageous to the survival of the species.
Thanks Mr. Marlos.
I am amazed by nature. I’ll try to stop feeling bad about this one’s curtain call. As you told me, that’s normal behavior for this species. At least its children had an advantage getting started in life.


Location: Long Beach, California

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