I spent the last couple of weeks in northern Queensland, Australia sweeping and light trapping praying mantises in the bush. I was looking for green, leaf-dwelling Iridopterygidae, of which there are two genera found in Australia: Kongobatha and Neomantis. I also sought to collect and preserve all of the adult mantises that I found for accession into the Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s entomology collection for future research endeavors.
Orthopterist David Rentz and I collected mantises and other orthopteroids around Kuranda, Mt. Molloy, and Talaroo, Queensland. While the collecting was not great for my target specimens, I managed to collect many other beautiful and interesting praying mantises including some ground-dwellers, which have become my personal favorites: the ant mimicking Nesoxypilus and the “boxing” Paraoxypilus. I suspected that the weather might have something to do with poor iridopterygid collecting: there was a major drought and heat wave leading up to my arrival in Queensland which was followed with a period of intense, daily thunderstorms. Not only did these conditions make it difficult to sweep and light trap for praying mantises and other insects, but the poor weather conditions might be enough to disrupt the life cycles of the fragile and moisture dependent mantises that I was after.
During my last two days in the field, and with only 7 target specimens, we decided to drive to the Daintree Rainforest Observatory in Cape Tribulation, QLD as a last attempt to find and collect the necessary specimens. Within the first hour at the site, I managed to collect over 24 target specimens! And we happened upon several cassowaries meandering about the rainforest, including a large independent cassowary chick.
I am thrilled to report that I left the field with over 70 target leaf-dwelling Iridopterygidae specimens for my doctoral research and a Schmitt Box filled with praying mantises for accession into the CMNH. I am now studying various aspects of these leaf-dwelling mantises’ neurophysiology with the Narendra lab group at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. Wish us luck!