A longtime nature enthusiast, Ian Riddell has been a Ranger for Zimbabwe’s Department of National Parks when he was a student, and was a professional Safari Guide as well. “I use iNaturalist for nearly all my records,” he says, “having found it soon after it started after searching for some site where I could put my piles of records to use – and Zimbabwe showed as a big blank on the map.”
He’s since added over 600 observations from Zimbabwe (nearly half of all iNat observations there), including the stunning young Cryptic mantis seen above. As you can tell, this insect was found not on an adventure in the bush (“the bush is the colloquial term for any venture out of the city to wild places,” says Ian), but in his home.
“I noticed the mantid out of the corner of my eye whilst combing the cat! There was something ant-sized moving on a folded blanket on a verandah table,” he recalls. “Not an ant ‘cause the movement was wrong, so dashed inside to grab the camera and a gorgeous tiny mantid was revealed.”
The Cryptic mantis ranges throughout southern Africa, and females can grow up to about 5-6 cm in length, with the males a bit smaller. As an adult, it will have green, leaf-like wings and several leafy projections from his hind legs. In the photo you can see the thin prothorax behind its head, which is a trait of the species.
Ian says he’s “Still interested in all aspects of nature; in the garden, on a bird outing, a National Parks visit, bio-diversity surveying, whatever,” and currently does some work for BirdLife Zimbabwe, leads some birding trips, and writes short ornithological and travel articles. And he’s still into learning, admitting that “A lot of spare time is taken up on identifying past and present discoveries; moths are a real challenge!”
- by Tony Iwane
- Are there Cryptic mantid videos on YouTube? Of course.
- Here’s an article about another amazing mantis, the Orchid Mantis.