Day 20: The Praying Mantis

extreme close up of a Praying Mantis

Image via Wikipedia

I pretty much like all insects with the exception of the biting and stinging ones. Spiders are kind of creepy, but I don’t mind them unless they’re LARGE. Like tarantulas — now finding one of those in my house would send me up the wall. But that’s next to impossible considering where we live. We do have wolf spiders around, and those are size-ably creepy.

Praying Mantises (Manti ?) are cool. They look prehistoric yet at the same time, quite world-wise. If you are ever fortunate to see a Praying Mantis in the “wild”, they are mostly very still. They stand fairly erect on their hind legs. Their triangular-shaped head with its huge eyes, can swivel almost 360 degrees. They are quick as lightening when a fly decides its own fate by landing near, or buzzing by, a mantis. The mantis’s skinny little front legs appended with formidable claws, dart out quick as a frog’s tongue, to snag the witless fly and begin munching.

Female mantises are much larger than the males. My family once found a male and female. We promptly ensconced them in a suitable glass habitat with the requisite grass pieces and leaf bits. Those creatures held our fascination for a long time. After they mated, the female promptly ate the male, piece by piece until he was all gone. She laid an egg sac that looked like a very tiny loaf of bread. We waited and waited for it to hatch. We studied. We read. We waited. But we never did have mantis babies.

My sister and her family, on the other hand, had success with the mantis they found. The egg sac was laid, and waiting began. Then one day when my sister was cleaning, she noticed a line of ants crawling up her kitchen wall. You know, those little tiny ones we call “sugar ants” that you can never seem to get rid of no matter what you try? Upon closer inspection, she realized that she had hundreds of baby Praying Mantises! I don’t remember how she got rid of them, but it was certainly a BIG surprise that they had hatched and then escaped the confines of their mantis nursery.

My sister-in-law has some great mum plants growing beside their porch. Last fall, the mums were home to dozens of mantises. The insects were huge so we assumed they were females. Some were leaf green and others, brownish-grey, like a dried leaf. They didn’t seem to mind an audience. A wondrous sight among the pinkish-lavender blooms.

Nature is so amazing to witness. You don’t have to look very far to see an interesting bug, a graceful butterfly, a plant you’ve never noticed before, a bird that’s new to your feeder. You just have to be aware, and nature will come to you in all its glory. Celebrate the nature in your backyard. You may be pleasantly surprised! C

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