It has been some years since I last went on holiday outside the UK, but this summer we decided upon a family trip to north-eastern Italy. While warm, the area is mountainous and has escaped the recent extreme temperatures recorded on flatter regions to the south. The landscape is dotted with small towns and villages centred around picturesque churches and their clock towers. The call to prayer rings out across the valley three times a day.

For part of our holiday we based ourselves near Pontebba in the Carnic Alps, close to the borders of Austria and Slovenia. A town that has seen post-industrial decline since its heyday as a provincial border trading post, but whose panificio (bakery) and cafes do a roaring trade with locals and touring cyclists passing through. We took our climbing ropes on holiday and on a sunny afternoon set about exploring the bolted routes in the limestone gorge that towers above the town.

Sandwiched between the industrial outskirts of the town and the gorge was the most amazing car park. A diverse habitat of wildflower and shrubs that would put many a nature reserve to shame. Butterflies were everywhere. Silver-washed fritillary, that are an infrequent spot back home, were there in numbers. A blur of hummingbird hawk-moths nectar on buddleia three at a time. This was a spectacle that would take some beating.

Having lugged our rucksacks upon our shoulders, we set off towards the gorge through the back of the car park. At the front my older daughter shouts out “praying mantis!” in a tone that suggests that they are an everyday occurrence for her. In synchrony, and clearly doubting her, my wife and I respond “praying mantis, are you sure?” It did not take our younger daughter long to find a second.

The European praying mantis is vivid green, but well camouflaged. The name ‘praying mantis’ is derived from the posture adopted by the insect as it sits poised to ambush its next meal. Bringing its front legs together as a human would bring their arms together in a state of reflection or worship. Crickets and grasshoppers make for a tasty mantis snack and were plentiful.

Travelling on the wind the European paying mantis is increasingly found on Jersey and it will only be a matter of time before a breeding population establishes itself. As our climate warms Jersey could be the springboard to them becoming a species of mainland Britain.

It had been a while since I had last rock-climbed. Butterflies float up the rock wall and the occasional chrysalis clings to it poised in transformation. I am clinging too, and praying that I can reach the next bolt without a fall.