Over the past few years I have been studying the behaviour of mainly captive mantis, particularly the conspecific behaviour of two species of Ameles [A picteti & A spallanzania] that are found in my garden. These species are generally very cryptic and observing such behaviour in the wild is almost impossible so they have been watched in cages filled with vegetation. I have recently published papers on these two species – see home page – describing my observations over several years. These are briefly outlined below with some videos illustrating what is described.
Signalling in males of this species is normally through abdominal movement, a curling of the abdomen either to the side or up and down. These movements may involve a full extension into a parabolic-like curve or just the tip may be moved up and down. These movements always take place with the wings more or less in their normal, closed position.
These abdominal movements were used both during male-female interactions which might lead up to mating but also during encounters with other males where fighting might also occur. Such fights would only last a second or two and took the form of biting or buffeting. Deimatic displays similar to those in the females were not displayed by the males and it may be that abdominal movement replaced these in the males or were means of distracting a possible predator with the moving and reddish coloured abdomen – which is a colour outside the visual spectrum of mantids
Males making various abdominal movements
Occasionally, movement of the entire forelegs in the vertical plane occurs in males. Although this was rarely seen during the years of study, it has been observed twice since. On both occasions a female was steadily approaching the male, which on one of these occasions was also moving its abdomen. More commonly the tibia and tarsi together might be moved up and down while the femur is held against the thorax.
Females in this species rarely eat the males during mating, though females will at times cannibalise both males and other females. Other than benign movements of the forelegs when they allow a male to mate unharmed, females rarely make any signalling movements towards the males but they may display aggressively when they encounter other females. This takes the form of raising up the front of their bodies and curling their abdomens upwards or out to the side and may be further enhanced by moving the closed forelegs out to the side, horizontally in line with the thorax, effectively increasing its width. Less commonly, the forewings may be also raised revealing the reddish coloured hindwings. In such encounters short fights may also occur, similar to those seen between males.
Deimatic-type displays of females during confrontations
Males of this species use more signals than those of A picteti. Curling of the abdomen was seen in male-female encounters and this frequently accompanied a raising of all the wings above the body. In this species the male abdomen is not differently coloured from the rest of the body.
In sexual encounters single wing flaps were also used. These were a single, rapid movement of both wings together while the animal was stationary. They are normally spaced out; only on rare occasions might one follow closely behind another. They normally occurred 10-30cms from the female as the male approached her.
Male with raised wings approaching female .
Foreleg movements were seen in both sexual and same-sex encounters and in the latter fighting might also occur. Such movements were normally forwards in a vertical plane, making roundish or eliptical movements. These were usually made straight outwards from the body but in some sexual encounters they could be directed diagonally downwards like an animal pawing the ground. As in A picteti, the tibia and tarsi might also be moved with the fore femur tucked in close to the body.
Foot stamping was rare in males of this species.
Male, close to a female, makes a single wing flap
A female making a benign approach to a reluctant male to encourage him to mate.
Female of this species will frequently eat the mating male, but not always, and she decides this, the males not appearing to have the ability to sneak up on her unawares. At times a second male may mate with her while she is eating the first.
A male mating with a female eating the first male that tried to mate.
As in A picteti, female A spallazania do not use visual signal during sexual encounters [other than to move their forelegs to non-offensive positions when eliciting a non-canaballistic mating] but will exhibit various forms of their deimatic display when seeing other females. Then the forebody is raised up with the forelegs either pushed forwards or splayed apart and the wings may be raised displaying the coloured hind wings. During such encounters they will fight but not to the point of harm and caniballism does not occur.
Preening occurs regularly in both sexes during interactions where it may be a displacement activity. Females will also preen their genitalia after mating.
A female preening her genitalia
Rotational forward movement of the forelegs will also be seen at times in the females, often accompanied by some stamping of the feet and an agitated moving on the spot.