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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 6, Issue 1 (May 1, 1931)

The Arch Hypocrite of the Insect World

page 63

The Arch Hypocrite of the Insect World

That elegant representative of the order Orthoptera, the Mantis, is comparatively rare in New Zealand. Mr. G. V. Hudson, F.E.S., considers it local to Nelson in the South Island; yet, it does not seem indigenous to this country and was, in all probability, introduced from Australia by the early miners who came over.

Slender of body, beautiful in leaf-like colouration and design that renders it most difficult to locate—alike by foe or prey—as it lurks in a most devout attitude of prayer—a personification of piety that has earned for it the common designation of “Praying Mantis.”

Alas, what a misnomer!

An arch hypocrite, a veritable cannibal, the Tiger of the Insect World! Were the word “praying” spelt “preying” it would correctly define this insects savage attributes, still, what a wealth of legend this devotional semblance has given rise to!

In France, not only has it the repute of pointing the way out to the lost wanderer; but, the peasantry carry its nest—carefully stitched into a pocket to avoid losing it—as the most potent of “goodluck-charms” and an infallible cure for chilblains and toothache. The natives of India attribute to it absolute intercessional power for remission of sins and omission and commission.

This is the arch hypocrite whose delicate elegance conceals an herculean strength for its size; fires of savagery that burn with insatiable slaughter lusts. The devotional arms are weapons furnished with alternating black and green saw teeth; the first joint bears a cruel spike to impale the victim beyond hope of escape; the feet have needle-pointed claws. On the tibiae, or second section of the foreleg, are a series of drum-shaped spots which Mr. A. K. Swinton thought to be organs of hearing; this is very open to doubt.

Some forms are of wondrous beauty, others gigantic as the species go, and all are credited with a power of changing colour to harmonise with environment surpassing that of the chameleon.

In Java is a variety exactly resembling the pink orchis flowers where these man-tidae sit in wait of prey.

In India are two beautiful forms; one that has perfectly mimicked the rose leaves it haunts, the other with leaf-like appendages and prothorax of a pale violet edged in delicate pink shades. This insect's method of securing prey is to hang head downwards and, as it swings to and fro in the breeze, mimic perfectly the corolla of a flower as an attractive lure.

In Africa are many giant forms; amongst them one that preys on smaller birds and animals the size of a mouse—a feat in which it out-rivals the giant and carnivorous green grasshopper of the same parts.

Farewell Function at Addington

On the occasion of the retirement from the service, on superannuation, of several members of the Addington Workshops staff, a most successful social and dance was held in the Railway Works Dining Hall, on Tuesday evening, 12th May. The hall was tastefully decorated and excellent music was supplied by the Works Orchestra, under the leadership of Mr. W. Kitchingham. A feature of the evening was the fancy dances given by the Misses Bruce and Chisholm. These were much appreciated by the 150 couples present.

Mr. J. S. Cummings made an excellent M.C. In the course of a happy speech (in the absence of the Works Manager, Mr. Jenkins), he feelingly referred to the long years of devoted service which the retiring members had rendered the Department, and expressed the hope that they would live long to enjoy the benefits of the Superannuation Fund. Mr. Jackson suitably replied on behalf of the members.

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