16th Annual Smithsonian Magazine Photo Contest Natural World
Mating praying mantis': one head is already bitten off and two others patiently wait their turn.

I watched this beautiful female praying mantis in my yard for three weeks flying from sunflower to sunflower, eating as many bees and bugs that she could catch. Patient, quick and clever - she got fatter everyday. Then I noticed a male, then another, and another. I missed her biting the head off #1, but watched #2 and #3 vie for position. She ate #2's head, too! Then #3 had its turn. This is the moment that all three are on her back - one head gone! She moved around with them like this for hours. The mating went on for two days. All the while she kept getting mad at me - her eyes darting in many directions. She would turn her head and glare! She finally flew off. After three weeks of being closely watched, I think she preferred a safe and quiet place to lay her eggs. It was so beautiful and so very interesting!

Photo Detail
Date Taken: 09.2017
Date Uploaded: 11.2018
Photo Location: Canyon Country, California, United States of America
Camera: Canon EOS 80D
Copyright: © Jodie Bridgewater