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A female conehead mantis (Empusa pennata). Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/2000, f/2.8, iso 250, handheld.
A recent visit to mainland Greece showed us many wonders, both natural and man-made. From magic Meteora, quiet Mount Olympus, excellent hospitality to crab spiders (Thomisidae), a Mediterranean moray (Muraena helena) and many many tortoises! Mainland Greece seems to have it all, expect money… But let's not talk about the social-economic upheavals. Enough is being written about that already (except maybe why the EU isn't filing charges against Goldman Sachs for systematically helping previous Greek governments masking their true financial situation...?). No, I’m here to talk to you about another gem all together: mantises! Pelion peninsula didn’t bring us any fabled centaurs, but I did spot an adult conehead mantis (Empusa pennata) as well as several juveniles of the European mantis (Mantis religiosa).

I have to admit... I have a thing for this insect family… And it's definitely NOT a fascination with sexual cannibalism. You are ALL perverts, the lot of you! Maybe it’s their mysterious appearance or the circumstances of my first sighting in the wild ever: spotting countless praying mantises during field work around Viscri, a village in Romania founded by Transylvanian Saxons with origins going back to AD 1100. A wonderful moment at which - I have to confess - I discovered having forgot my camera. Talking about a steep learning curve ;)

Anyway, this female was easily 10cm long (3.9 inches). For a second I thought I landed on the film set of Ridley Scott's sequel to Prometheus! Nature is stranger than fiction though and this species has a distribution from Southern Europe into Turkey and the Middle East. Apparently, males have long feathery antennae which they use to locate the female's pheromones. This way some actual mating can take place as both genders are so well camouflaged (both in their appearance as in their movements) that it would be very hard indeed to find each other otherwise...

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Monthly pic July 2015