A couple of weeks ago I spotted a thin dry piece of yellow grass quivering in the wind — it turned out to be a small, wonderfully ornamented mantis in the genus Sibylla. Being a male, this individual was jumpy and incredibly rapid, running up and down the broad surface with ease. Thankfully it was a subadult without wings to take to the air and pull a disappearing act. Several days ago it finally molted into an adult, first acquiring a pale body and yellow wings before sclerotizing into his final color form. Like some other mantids in the family Hymenopodidae (and also Empusidae), Sibylla is elaborately adorned. Mantids in this genus have round projections from their striped femora, two short spikes on the slender pronotum, bright green leaf-like wings, and a distinct double-antlered crown. Their cryptic shuddering body movement makes them particularly difficult to photograph. Sibylla will extend and contract its forearms in forward motion rapidly along with constantly fluttering antennae, over 20 times per second. I had a little flower mantis in Peru named Pixie (genus Acontista) that exhibited the same antennae vibrations. I’ve always wondered what might be the function, maybe chemosensory? When approached, Sibylla will freeze and extend the arms forward — as my friend says: “I’m a stick!” — with only one of the two raptorials open. I’ll have to see the frequency with which it chooses left or right… handedness in mantids? Simultaneously, the mantis turns its body to face you perpendicularly, so only a profile of the leafy wings is visible.
All photos taken after capture