After finding my first individual of the lovely preying mantid Sibylla pretiosa on one of my first days at Gorongosa, I have since discovered several more, all superbly camouflaged on tree trunks. They are perfect mimics of a spiderweb with bits of dirt and leaves wrapped all around. The last time I found one, I tried for something a little different than a regular whitebox shot. I like the result.
A few nights ago in Chitengo Camp, I caught a beautiful praying mantid Omomantis zebrata. A gorgeous species normally found in bushes and trees in savanna habitats, it is also attracted to lights. I photographed him, and then decided to lift up his wings to check for any coloration, as many mantids and grasshoppers have wild colors on their hind wings. I opened up his wings and was at first disappointed; they were mostly clear, with a slight pinkish tinge. But then I noticed a small dark object hunched in a fold of the right wing. It clearly was not a part of the mantid, and closer examination showed it to be a female parasitoid wasp in the family Torymidae! This animal parasitizes the egg cases (oothecae) of mantids. Many have developed elaborate ways of locating these oothecae, and this individual was a hitchhiker. When the mantid found a mate, the wasp would have jumped ship to the female mantid, and then parasitized the female mantid’s eggs as she laid them. A pretty sorry state of affairs for the mantid, but a very clever method of reproduction for the wasp, and also a reminder to always take a second look at everything.
A few photos from the past few days of several of the more spectacular animals found in Gorongosa National Park, in no particular order.