QROBERT ERASMUS from Pretoria writes: I noticed this praying mantis on a table in the Dikhololo Game Reserve near Brits one morning. I thought it was eating something, but when I enlarged the photo later I noticed there seemed to be other insects on each of its front legs. These insects looked like lice, but surely they’re too big to be lice?
AEntomologist DUNCAN MACFADYEN says: Those aren’t lice; they’re the enlarged front legs of the mantid. This is a male boxer mantis – it gets its name by the way it moves its front legs to communicate. There’s a theory that the white colouration and abdomen shape of this species matches fresh bird droppings, and thus aids camouflage. It’s an ambush predator, more abundant in the arid parts of the country, and often overlooked as it scuttles about on the bark of trees.