On a leaf

The Common Milkweed plants are mature, and the Monarchs are finding them. But have you noticed that these native wildflowers attract tons of bugs? A few years ago we showed many of them, and here are three from our recent visit.

A Carolina Mantis on milkweed leaf–an immature one, his wings are just forming.

Milkweed Leaf Beetle

Pearl Crescent

And here’s that Milkweed Community post in case you’d like to see more!


One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Recognize this fellow?

Mystery #167


If so, give us a shout in the comments.

I’ll be back later with the correct answer!


carolina mantis eating

As one of our regular readers said, it is a good bug eating bad bugs! That’s the life of the Carolina Mantis, a predator you humans often call a praying mantis. If you’ve ever encountered one, you know those front limbs are lines with little barbs, perfect for catching and holding insects.


This female has colored herself gray to blend with her surroundings. She can’t change frequently, like a chameleon, but can adjust color when she grows and molts her exoskeleton, up until she is full grown. And how do we know this is a female? Size is one way, the females are larger than the males. But a more certain way to tell is the wings. On a full-grown female, they extend only 3/4 of the way along the abdomen, leaving her tail end exposed.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Despite the rain, our temperatures are still above freezing so we have many hardly bugs out and about.

Mystery # 134

Know what this one is?


We had some close guesses today, in fact a correct guess that this is a member of the mantis family. Specifically, it’s Carolina Mantis, native to North America. You might see them in a variety of colors, form brown to tan to gray to green. This is because the mantis can change it’s color to camouflage with its environment–but not at will. As the young mantis nymph grows and molts, each new skin color will be close to the predominant color in the area at the time. But once they reach adulthood, they are stuck with their last color.

Carolina Mantis on Passion Flower

Above is another view of the native Carolina Mantis, and below is the Chinese Praying Mantis that was imported from China in 1895 to help deal with pest problems.

Chinese Praying mantis

We also had some guesses that this insect was a walking stick, so here is a walking stick for comparison.

Walking Stick

Pretty stream-lined insect. Even his eyes don’t stick out. Hope this helps you sort your garden insects, which are at their largest now that the growing season is at its end.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there readers! How about identifying this little blob we found when we’d checked out the Christmas Ferns again.

mystery #39

Guesses will be checked and the answer given toward evening.


This dry mass that looks like pumice on a stick is a Praying Mantis eggcase, better known in the insect world as an ootheca. You may remember we talked about a praying mantis we’d found back on the  August 31st  post. But we had misidentified the creature, we told you on September 5th.

We didn’t want to make that mistake again, so did a little research.

The cases are not too difficult to tell apart if you have seen properly identified pictures of each. A resource we found is the Missouri Botanical Garden website, specifically their section on Beneficial Insects. You will need to scroll down to almost the end—though the rest of what Miz Flora calls good bugs are interesting, too—until you see the photos labeled Carolina Mantis. They look like a trilobite. Then below are the Chinese Praying Mantis oothecas—and bingo! That round shape with the one flat side is what we’ve shown for today’s mystery.

So we expect 100 to 400 little Chinese mantids to emerge in the spring to help with our bad bug problems. What I don’t understand is how they tell the bad form the good bugs.

Oops, those were Chinese Praying Mantis

An alert reader more specifically identified the two mantis pictures we featured (August 24 and August 31) as hailing from China. Obviously we don’t see too many mantises, but luckily our regular reader and new friend Nancy does.

Reading up on the foreign mantises, we learned the species was imported to North America in 1895 to help with pest control and spread around the northeast where we’re located. Another species found in the U. S. is from Japan.

However, one species that is native is the Carolina Mantis. Nancy sent along a picture of this insect that is also a terrific predator of pesky insects.

She—we think—is perched on a very fancy flower that Miz Flora is drooling over: Passion Flower, Passiflora incarnata. (We’ve asked Nancy for another picture of this native vine for a future post.) Thanks, Nancy!