Naural history of Gonatista grisea, the grizzled mantis or Lichen mimic mantis

Recently I have started looking into the natural history of Gonatista grisea a mantis native to Florida and found around where I live (Broward County, Florida).

I started looking for Gonatista grisea (hereafter referred to as just Gonatista) in February, and wasn't sure I'd find any, as it's cool and dry during that time in South Florida and there isn't a lot of insect activity.

I spent several hours looking in Treetops park and Long Key natural area to no avail. I think I was looking in the wrong place. Given what I've read about these and other members of the family Liturgusidae they seem to prefer vertical tree trunks without any vegetation touching them. I was looking primarily at small oak trees, Quercus virginiana, which were in weedy areas with shrubs and vines touching them.

Everywhere I thought would be a good spot, I saw an anole, a lizard of the genus Anolis, usually A. sagrei but also A. distichus, A. carolinensis, maybe others. I was beginning to wonder if all the Gonatista were driven out by these lizards that seem to occupy the same niche.

When I started looking at small trees out in the open I had better luck. At a bunch of cypress trees just west of Treetops park, as I got close to a smaller tree, maybe half a metre away I saw something run to the other side of the trunk at waist height. I assumed it was another anole but it turned out to be my first Gonatista! It is pictured above.

I was able to catch it but it wasn't easy. I tried to cup my hand over it and go slow enough so I don't squish it, but it was too fast. I did manage to catch it on the edge of my fingers and put it in a plastic box. Success!


On Saturday, March 2nd, it was kind of cool, 18C (65F), so I wasn't sure if it was a good idea to go back in the field but I went back to the place where I found the first Gonatista nymph and looked for more. On the same tree I saw another:

and on a nearby larger tree there was another nymph:

I cut my trip short as I found a beutiful Stagmomantis nymph that I wanted to take home to show my daughters. I left the Gonatista nymphs there as I didn't want to affect the population too much, and I want to get my fly supply lines built up before I try more, and I want to make sure I can keep the first one I found alive.
Thursday, March 7th: I finally saw my grisea nymph eat a roach! bad photo below:

Friday, March 8th: I returned to the field - same spot I found the first grisea and saw several more on different trees, and an ootheca. Confident that the population seems rather vigorous, I captured a second nymph, hopefully to make a breeding pair. They are actually pretty easy to catch. Take two hands and make a box around the nymph on the tree. The nymph will not want to leave the tree and will be forced to climb on your hands. Once on your hands it doesn't seem to want to jump off, and you can direct it into a container.

I got a cheap macro lens for my iphone, here's a closeup of in the wild:


Friday, March 9th: I went to a Long Key nature area, about 5 km from the spot near Treetops to look for Gonatista grisea. I didn't see anything on the nature trail or the off limits area I got thrown out of, but I did see one on the edge of the parking lot: