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8 Facts About the Spiny Flower Mantis

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ThinkStock

Sure, you've heard of the Praying Mantis. But have you met its cousin, Pseudocreobotra wahlbergii, also known as the Spiny Flower Mantis? We stumbled upon its photo during an image search and had to find out more. Here are a few things to know about this beautiful, terrifying-looking insect. 

1. This tiny bug measures between 1 to 2 inches and is native to Southern and Eastern Africa.

2. Nymphs, like the one shown above, have an upturned abdomen. Adults have a large yellow spiral eyespot on their forewings.

3. When they're first born, nymphs are mostly black and look almost like ants.

4. Nymphs will molt approximately every two weeks; the time between molts gradually increases as the mantids get closer to adulthood. During molting, a mantis hangs upside down, sometimes shaking, and eventually wiggles out of its skin. It takes seven molts for a female to reach maturity, and six molts for males.

5. When threatened, the insects raise their forewings, which makes them look like a much larger creature with big, golden eyes. This is called a deimatic display, and it looks like this:

I wouldn't want to run into that guy in an alley—would you?

6. Instead of searching for prey, P. wahlbergii prefers to snatch its meals—usually pollinating insects—from the air:

7. Females have small spines on the edges of their wing cases; males do not. The male has slightly longer antennae and eight segments on its abdomen (females will have six or seven). An easy way to tell males from females is to look at the length of their wings: A female's wings will reach to the end of her abdomen, while a male's wings will extend past it.

8. Like other mantis species, the Spiny Flower Mantis is cannibalistic. As usual, it's the males who have the most to fear; the website MantisKingdom.com recommends feeding the female before putting a male in the cage behind her:

As she is busy with eating, she can't grab him or throw him off of her. After a while of holding on, the male will bend his abdomen down to connect with hers and mating will commence.

After the deed is done, the site suggests getting the male out of the cage quickly, or else he'll become a meal.

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This Self-Cloning Tick is Terrorizing More States
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Few arachnids are as demonized in the summer months as ticks, the parasitic little nuisances that can spread disease in humans and pets. That's not likely to change now that there's a exotic new species that can not only self-replicate, but is also poised to attack animals like a colony of swarming fire ants.

This super-tick is Haemaphysalis longicornis, or the longhorned tick, native to East Asia and imported to the U.S. by unknown means. The first North American sighting took place in August 2017 in New Jersey when a farmer walked into a county health office covered in nearly 1000 ticks after shearing a pet sheep that had been infested. The insect was then spotted in Virginia, West Virginia, and Arkansas, with caution advised in Maryland. As of this week, it’s now a confirmed resident of North Carolina, The Charlotte Observer reports.

H. longicornis invites more dread than a conventional tick for several reasons. It can “clone” itself, with females laying up to 2000 genetically identical eggs without any assistance from a male, a process called parthenogenesis. Reproduction is faster, with offspring appearing in just six months compared to two years for common deer ticks. It’s also an aggressive biter, nibbling on any animal flesh it can latch on to, and is able to transfer a host of diseases in the process—some of them fatal. In addition to Lyme, longhorned ticks can transmit the flu-like ehrlichiosis bacteria and the rare Powassan virus, which can cause brain inflammation.

The news isn’t much better for livestock. Given enough opportunity, the ticks can siphon enough blood from an animal to kill it, a process known as exsanguination. The attack can become so concentrated that pets have been spotted with ticks hanging from them like bunches of grapes.

New Jersey officials have confirmed the tick has survived the winter by burrowing underground, a somewhat ominous sign that the invasive species might be durable enough to become a widespread problem. Experts recommend taking all the regular precautions, including wearing long pants when outdoors, using repellent, and examining yourself and your pets for ticks. While the longhorned tick hadn’t yet displayed a taste for human flesh, it’s better to be safe than sorry. As for the sheep: following a chemical treatment, she made a full recovery.

[h/t Charlotte Observer]

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Courtesy of Kari Kaunisto/Biodiversity Unit of the University of Turku
This Super-Stinger Wasp Was Just Discovered in the Amazon
Courtesy of Kari Kaunisto/Biodiversity Unit of the University of Turku
Courtesy of Kari Kaunisto/Biodiversity Unit of the University of Turku

Deserved or not, the Amazon has developed a reputation for hosting animals, insects, and other creatures that appear to exist solely to terrify humans. And everywhere in the world, you’ll find parasitic organisms that thrive when they siphon blood or other resources from hosts.

A new entrant has emerged in both of these charts: Calistoga crassicaudata, a wasp recently discovered in the Amazon that sports a stinger roughly half the length of its 9.8-millimeter-long body. The insect may as well come out of the workshop of Alien designer H.R. Giger: Its methodology is to impale prey with the stinger, paralyzing it, and then depositing eggs inside so they can hatch later. The hatching usually causes the host—typically a spider—to burst open and die in agony as C. crassicaudata laughs maniacally. Metaphorically speaking.

Researchers from the University of Turku, Finland, made the discovery between the Andes and the Amazonian lowland rainforest and reported it in the journal Zootaxa. The new species appears to be amazing wasp experts by the sheer magnitude of its built-in spear, also called an ovipositor, that delivers both venom and the female's eggs.

"I have studied tropical parasitoid wasps for a long time, but I have never seen anything like it," entomologist and co-author Ilari E. Sääksjärvi said in a statement. "It looks like a fierce weapon."

The good news? It’s not really strong enough to pierce human skin, so should you find yourself in its vicinity, you probably don't need to worry. Instead, worry more about the common paper wasp, which has a barbed stinger, takes only 0.5 seconds to impale you, and can retain its stinger to continue its assault.

[h/t LiveScience]

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