I’d never before seen a praying mantis cleaning his face like a cat. This one – disguised as a leaf with extended throrax and shield (and rescued from behind the shutters) is clearly preparing for close-ups.
After Africa, I found it hard tuning into the life around me in a Central American rainforest. These might be some of the most biodiverse places on earth, but for the first few months here, all I could see was a wall of green. Reporting on tourism and conservation put me in contact with some of the region’s finest researchers, biologists and guides, and with their help I finally managed to reset my focus and really start seeing what was in front of me. Through that process I got a better idea of the intricate chain of dependencies running all the way up the life scale, started thinking of plants as clever, and developed a fascination for insects, their cooperative communities, and their survival mechanisms. The best and most widespread survival mechanisms are camouflage and mimicry (which explains why I saw nothing on my first hikes). This praying mantis gave himself away by flying in and clinging to the inside of the mesh screen of my room where he was conspicuous, (on other occasions I’ve heard their scratchy fake leaf scraping across the floor, and a walking leaf in a bathroom is guaranteed to draw attention). I found a plant outside that seemed a good match, and put him on it.
The anxious yet indignant frog (here being humiliated by my friend) makes an appearance in a couple of days, but I wanted to include him because he is a constant presence, and I’m fond of him and his singing. I admire the beetle for attempting to camouflage himself on the Insects of Costa Rica Identification Chart. That is smart – although he slipped up when he chose the wrong genus. The magnificent mantis made a loud scratching noise as he rustled across the tile floor that gave him away, not that a large, fast-moving leaf wasn’t going to attract my attention anyway. The Jesus Christ lizard has decided to share my bedroom, as well as my bathroom. I like him, but he gets so panicky. The scorpion . . . well, the scorpion was the only casualty, and that’s because he climbed into my bed and stung me. He’s shown here, shortly after his demise, on an emergency numbers call sheet. I woke with nausea, a stiff shoulder and neck, general aching and a bad headache. It was an effort to get dressed, and up the hill to the hotel, and over to the kitchen to ask if any Central American scorpions were deadly. When, after some consultation, the answer came back ‘no’ I felt instantly better. I’m not really sorry he had to die, because, apparently, there are plenty of them left out there.