The Mantis religiosa aka praying mantis most often looks peaceful, as if communing with God as it stands with its front legs in the position of prayer. But do not let the pose fool you, the spindly insect is a ferocious predator and its devout stance could be better recognised as its 'prayer before meals'.
One photograph caught the mantis in all its hunting glory as it fed on the body of a humming bird. Former National Park Service ranger and New Mexico resident Tom Vaughan managed to capture the moment at a backyard bird-feeder where the mantis in question was spotted holding itself suspended from the vessel to feast on the carcass of the bird.
"I call this 'You're next!'" he wrote in a 4 June post of the image on Facebook. "After this shot, the mantis dropped the bird, crawled across the underside of the plastic feeder, came up on the other side and prepared to nab another hummer," he wrote in another comment.
Vaughan informed that his photo is set to be included in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology alongside a paper titled Bird Predation by Praying Mantises: A Global Perspective.
Mantis attacks on humming birds are common enough, but not many photo-records of the event have been made. "It was probably what we would call a lucky shot," Kevin McGowan, an ornithologist at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology in Ithaca, NY told National Geographic.
Typically, the insect grabs hold of the bird's neck and starts nibbling the area, a task they could be at for more than an hour. "They have to chew through all that fluff, so I'm not surprised they go for the head," McGowan explained.
The five-gram birds are not the only unlucky prey on the mantis' dinner list. The insect also feasts on mice, crickets, moths, caterpillars, lizards and most famously their own species.