A praying mantis! I've seen praying mantises (manti?) elsewhere, but never in our neighborhood, much less anywhere near our house! As you can probably imagine, all of the neighbors have been here to see/photograph/comment on this house guest.
This shot is a little better. I was going show it to Jetsam and Pip, but then I realized that a) if they did actually see it, they would be even more anxious than usual to go outside, or b) they would look but see nothing. So I just skipped that plan.
The next picture is one I'm particularly proud of - I said (because yes, I even talk to insects), "I want to see if I can get a picture of your face," and it turned towards me!
"I'm ready for my close-up."
I sent these pictures to one of my entomologist friends at work, and he told me the following things, all of which fascinated me:
1. This is a Chinese mantid, most likely female, having just laid eggs nearby, or getting ready to lay eggs.
2. Mantids hatch from eggs, and then just go directly to their body design - skipping the pupa stage. So as it grows, it sheds its skin when it becomes larger.
3. Chinese mantids are an invasive species, in that they are not native. And Chinese mantids (as opposed to European mantids) are seen only above the Mason-Dixon Line.
4. They live for approximately one year, and die shortly after laying eggs.
5. They do not have brains.
6. Their ears are on their thorax.
7. They are one of the few insect species that can move their heads back and forth!
Perhaps the most amazing thing - to me at least - is that I wasn't freaked out seeing this in the first place. Clearly, working at a museum of natural history and being friends with entomologists has given me a different reaction (at least most of the time).
Having said that, if this had in any way jumped/flew towards me, I would have probably have a heart attack ... I mean, it's not like I've changed that much, in the end!