Mantisfly - Dicromantispa sayi
Another treasure of the garden--a mantisfly. These little gems are not terribly common, and I'm glad to find one every few years. I found this one floundering in my little water garden and saved it by putting it on some petunias to dry out. Predatory, as its spined and grasping front legs would suggest, the mantisfly is a neuropteran, related to the predatory lacewings, and like them it flies reluctantly and weakly. Actually, it prefers to wait around on flowers for something to blunder by to be grabbed and eaten. Me too. But usually I wind up cooking instead.
Such a charming bug--tiny but outfitted with everything it needs to grab smaller insects, process and consume them. I'm amazed at the convergent evolution that gives this insect the same bug-eyed countenance and miraculous forelimbs of the big praying mantis. Just a real good preying apparatus, and it works for both mantids and the unrelated mantisflies.
So when you see a big scary spider, know that there's something much scarier haunting it, and cut it a break. This, according to Eric Eaton of BugEric on Blogspot, is a fishing spider, genus Dolomedes, family Pisauridae. What it's doing on a dry ridge with two nearly-dry, fishless streams on either side is anybody's guess. Headed for my goldfish pond, hoping to snag a half-pound snack?
I posted the photo above thinking I had a wolf spider. Below is a real wolf spider. And this is the one I hope you'll cut some slack. Because if the wolf spider had been able to hatch all its eggs in its carefully tended silken sac, which the female spider hauls around beneath her abdomen, you'd have seen something like this:
Thanks to my friend Eric Eaton and the folks at Bugguide.net for helping me narrow down the choices of mantisfly. And for helping me tell a fishing spider from a wolf spider!