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Chinese Mantis

Chinese Mantis

The Chinese Mantis (Tenodera sinensis) is the largest species of Praying Mantis in North America, with adult females being able to see reach 6 inches in length. As the name implies, these insects are not native to the US, but rather they were accidentally introduced here from Asia in 1896.  Chinese Mantises are voracious predators, eating any creatures small enough to overpower. Large adults are even able to eat small mammals and hummingbirds! Mantids have superb eyesight. Their huge compound eyes give them an almost 360 degree view. They also have three simple eyes on the top of their head called ocelli. Mantises rely almost entirely on sight to find food. Once a mantis has a prey item, such as a housefly, in sight, it will slowly creep towards the fly, swaying as if it were blowing in the wind. Once the fly is in range, the mantis will, in the blink of an eye, grab the fly with its raptorial front legs and immediately start to eat it. The front legs of a praying mantis are modified to catch prey. They are both lined with sharp spines, which hold prey tight and prevent escape. They also use these legs for self defense, as they are very strong. A large mantis can even draw blood if provoked enough. Chinese Mantids are very docile, and do not bite or pinch unless they feel that their life is in danger. They much prefer to run away than stand and defend themselves. The adult males can fly, while the bulky females are usually too heavy to lift off the ground, the extra weight coming from unlaid eggs. If a mantis is cornered, and it’s escape is blocked, then it will go into what’s called a threat display. This is when the mantis rears up to full size and spreads its front legs out to the side to appear larger. Adults will put their wings up, which are usually colored on the inside and sometimes have large black spots, which mimic the eyes of a much larger creature. The goal of a threat display is to startle the threat long enough for the mantis to make an escape. It that doesn’t work, the mantis will bite and pinch the attacker in hopes of discouraging it and scaring it away. Perhaps the Chinese Mantises best means of defense is its amazing camouflage. For a predator, the hardest part of eating a mantis is finding it. Mantids will stay completely still in tall grass and plants, almost invisible to predator and prey alike. Their elongated bodies and the striped pattern of the adults helps them blend in with dense, tall grass. 

Mantises are considered to be beneficial insects, since they feed upon pest insects such as aphids, grasshoppers, and hornworms. In the fall, Chinese Mantises lay large egg cases, each filled with around 200 eggs. Come spring, the egg case will release hundreds of baby mantises, each one born ready to fend for itself. The nymphs, as immature mantids are called, are around 1-2 centimeters in length when they hatch. Over the course of a few months, the nymphs will molt around 8 times to make it to maturity. Chinese mantises, like most mantids, have a short lifespan, living around 7-9 months.

Chinese Mantis nymphs right after hatching. These are nymphs from only one of the egg cases.

Jumping Spiders

Jumping Spiders

Jumping Spiders are very common in most parts of the world, but their abilities are almost completely unique to their family, Salticidae. Not only are they the only spiders that use sight to aim and leap onto prey or from place to place, but some species can jump up to 50 times their own body length. That would be like a 5 foot 6 inch tall human jumping over a Boeing 747 jet airliner without a running start! There are about 5,000 species of Jumping Spider throughout the world, ranging in size from a few millimeters to over an inch, and can be any color imaginable. Jumping spiders are Araneomorphs, meaning that their fangs face each other, and bite in a pincer movement, as opposed to Mygalomorphssuch as tarantulas, whose fangs run parallel to each other and strike downwards. Jumping Spiders also have a very elaborate mating dance. When a male Jumper spots a female, he will attempt to get her attention, and then start moving side to side with his front pair of legs waving in the air while slowly moving forward. He will continue this until the female runs away, chases him away, attacks and eats him, or he gets close enough to mate. Because Jumping Spiders can see so well, the males are often very colorful to help improve their chances. Jumping spiders are like walking radar stations. They are covered so thickly in sensory hairs that they appear furry and almost puppy-like. They also have 8 strategically placed eyes that give them 360 degree vision that makes it near impossible to sneak up on them. Their front eyes are very large, giving them amazing eyesight and allowing them to see almost as well as humans! They can also see in three color patterns, meaning they see colors just like most people do. The combination of a furry look and big round eyes also makes them adorable looking to many people!

What is Molting?

Molting is an essential part of a tarantula’s life cycle, it’s how they grow! When a tarantula starts to prepare for a molt, it goes into a state called premolt. When a tarantula is in premolt, it becomes sluggish and refuses food, and if the “skin” under the abdomen is visible from hair kicking, you will notice its abdomen will change to a much darker color. Premolt can last a few days for fast growing spiderlings to months for adults of slower growing species such as the Arizona Blonde Tarantula (Aphonopelma chalcodes).

 Before the molt, a tarantula will lay down a molt mat, which is essentially a sheet of non-sticky silk that protects a tarantula during molting. When a tarantula is ready to molt, it flips upside down on the molt mat. Many beginner keepers see their tarantula upside down, and assume that it is stuck, so they flip it right side up. This could actually be fatal for the tarantula, causing it to get stuck in its molt, at which point there is not much you can do for it. After flipping over, the tarantula will slowly begin to push out of its old exoskeleton. This can take hours to accomplish and is very exhausting for the spider. The video shown was filmed over a course of around 6 or 7 hours. 

After molting, a tarantula is very soft and completely defenseless. This is when a tarantula is at its most vulnerable state. It may take anywhere from one day to harden up for very tiny spiderlings to weeks for some of the largest species. The tarantula in the video, a Burgundy Goliath Birdeater Tarantula, took 2 weeks from the molt to when her fangs finally completely hardened. When a tarantula molts, it can also regrow stomach linings, hairs that have been kicked off, and even lost limbs!

Great Websites To Check Out!

 Stores

 

Fear Not Tarantulas –www.fearnottarantulas.com 

Fear Not Tarantulas is the best place you can go to get a tarantula, scorpion, or other related invertebrate. They have a huge selection of tarantulas for good prices, and their customer service is phenomenal! They are always happy to help. You can visit their website linked above or you can stop in their incredible store in Virginia Beach, VA.

 

Eresus Spider Shop –www.eresusspidershop.com

Another great place is Eresus Spider Shop. Based out of California, they are one of, if not the best place to get invertebrates in the Western US. They have 20+ years of experience, and 95% of their animals are captive bred.

 

Forums

 

Tarantula Forum –www.tarantulaforum.com

This is a great place to learn more about pretty much any exotic invertebrate out there. The people on it are generally nice and helpful, and it is very easy to use. There is a For Sale/Wanted section for those looking to buy and sell. This is the main forum I use when I have a question.

 

Arachnoboards –www.arachnoboards.com

Arachnoboards is another helpful forum. It is a lot like Tarantula Forum, but is different in a few ways. For example, to put up a Classified Ad (Same as the For Sale/Wanted section in Tarantula Forum) you have to pay $10, while it is free on Tarantula Forum. Most of the people on this forum are helpful, but some are very particular. Arachnoboards isn’t quite as beginner friendly as Tarantula Forum, but it is still a great place to learn.

 

 Facts

 

Curiosity ClaraFied –www.claralogsdon.com

This is a very informative site with tons of facts about all kinds of creatures, from spiders to snakes to sharks. There are a dozen blog posts, (hopefully more soon) each about a different unique subject. This is a great place to learn interesting facts about animals.

 

Identification

 

BugGuide –www.bugguide.net

BugGuide is a superb place to identify any bug you see in North America. It has thousands of pictures, and many of them have a detailed report of where, when, and how the bug was found. I use BugGuide when I find something and I am not sure of the species.

 

Insect Identification –www.insectidentification.org

This is a more beginner friendly version of BugGuide. It doesn’t have quite as much as BugGuide, but is easier to understand.

 

YouTube Channels

The Tarantula Collective –https://www.youtube.com/c/thetarantulacollective/featured

The Tarantula Collective, hosted by Richard Stewart, is one of the best places to learn about species specific care, whether it be tarantulas, scorpions, or other miscellaneous invertebrates. His videos are easy to understand while being enjoyable to watch because of Richard’s amazing Macrophotography skills. Richard also has a podcast called The Exotic Pet Collective.

 

 

Clint’s Reptiles –https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCH18915fTE6yZzKrqdea8RQ

 

This is a great channel to check out if you are looking to get a pet reptile or invertebrate, but don’t know exactly what kind you want to purchase. Clint Laidlaw goes through each species, ranking them by 5 factors : Handleability, Care, Hardiness, Availability, and Upfront Costs. I highly reccomend this channel for anyone who is looking to get a new scaly pet.

 

 

Jack’s World of Wildlife –https://www.youtube.com/c/Jack%E2%80%99sWorldofWildlife/featured

 

Jack’s World of Wildlife is, in my opinion, one of the best educational YouTube channels out there. Jack Schonhoff strives to teach people the not-so-scary truth about misunderstood creatures such as snakes and spiders. He travels all around the world, coming face to face with lots of fascinating creatures.