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The Praying Mantis and the Gulf Fritillary

Praying Mantis eating Gulf FritillaryStagmomantis carolina
We witnessed this Carolina Mantis capture this unsuspecting Gulf Fritillary when it went to nectar on the pickerelweed.

We were walking along a trail with our friends and had stopped to admire a nice batch of pickerelweed that was growing in the water near a small wooden bridge on a trail. We were enjoying and photographing the many butterflies that were nectaring on the pickerelweed. Then I looked down into the water and say many butterfly wings floating on its surface. I knew then that a praying mantis had to be nearby.

In fact, she was directly above the floating wings on a pickerelweed, lying in wait for her next butterfly meal. This praying mantis had lost part of one of her forelimbs, but the abundance of butterfly wings showed that it did not seem to greatly impair her hunting skills.

Several Gulf Fritillaries and sulphur butterflies landed on her pickerelweed, but either sensed danger and left or were just lucky and escaped with their lives. But finally the praying mantis’ arms reached out and snagged an unwary Gulf Fritillary. We watched for over half an hour as she consumed every butterfly morsel except for the scaly wings which fell off as she finished her meal.