Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Mantis Wrangler

This is a story about how odd my mother is and how I got four insect siblings.

Early this spring, my mother was out on her back porch hanging up some sheets - she believes deeply that sheets must be hung up outside to dry - when she felt something like a cobweb or perhaps a few cat hairs on her left arm.  She looked down and her entire left side was covered in teeny, tiny just-hatched praying mantises!

Instead of having an old-school freakout like I probably would have, she walked out to her bushes and gently shook the baby mantises onto them.  She kept an eye on them all summer and of all the hundred or so baby mantises, she's got four big ones left.  (And let's just say that we don't think the other ones are on some tropical vacation - there's a reason why there's only a few big mantises and no small ones and it isn't about the real estate value, if you get what I mean.)

Floyd P. Mantis
The first mantis is Floyd. He lives on the coleus on top of my mom's window air conditioner unit.  He's a nice bronze color and he's not shy. I had my camera all up in his grill and he had no problem with that. Floyd lives on the other side of the dogwood from his sisters and I think that makes him a very prudent mantis, indeed, as he is the only male in the bunch.  In fact, 'prudent' is his middle name.

<Name Redacted to Protect the Innocent>
This is the second mantis, and she is the only one who dwells in the backyard.  She lives on my mom's Rose of Sharon and is extremely shy. My mom pesters the others day in and day out and they usually just turn their heads (at sometimes startling angles) to watch her when she talks to them.  This one gets out of Dodge with a quickness when the humans show up. Here you see her in mid-leap, which is why she's sort of blurry and also stretched out super long. My mom calls her Rose, but I am pretty sure that's not her real name. She's shifty.

Charlotte Mantis
Charlotte is our third mantis.  She's smaller than her siblings and lives in the pink flowers near the driveway. If I were her, I'd live in fear because she is very much smaller than her sisters and brother. Big Bertha lives right across the sidewalk and I can honestly say that Bertha makes even me nervous.  Charlotte is either fearless or dumb, but either way she has a lovely home, don't you think?

Big Bertha
I could not get Big Bertha to stand still for a good picture (probably because I called her Big Bertha).  She's much larger than Floyd or Witness Protection Mantis, but it's tough to get the right angle to show it.  I took probably 15 pictures of her before my mom called me a paparazzi stalker and made me quit pestering her. Suffice it to say that she's large enough to make even me nervous. She watches me when I walk past her, often turning her head all the way upside down to keep track of me. I can't help but think she believes I'd be the ideal meal. She's always hiding under a leaf, not because she's shy but because she's waiting.

The praying mantis lays her eggs in a sort of cocoon type thing that lasts through the winter then hatches out in the early spring.  My mom intends to find the eggsacks, keep them in the garage during the winter, then put them out on her bushes in the spring so she can have a more even layer of mantises next year.  Maybe more will survive Mantis Thunderdome that way. I hope to have a few more mantis siblings next summer.

Want to learn more about the praying mantis?  Go here for a truly disturbing picture and some cool info.
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  1. For whatever reason, praying mantises love to lay their eggs on the north wall of our house. There are always several of them out there every year. So we have lots of mantises for a while. But I very rarely see adult mantises around the yard/garden.

  2. Your mom is an amazing woman... I am in awe.

    I'm pretty sure I've never seen a mantis in person, and I had no idea they stayed put like that.

    Didn't 'Coraline' have something to do with a mantis?