Death and the Mantises


If finding a praying mantis alive is good luck, I am forever plagued by bad karma.  I was so excited a month ago to finally get the praying mantis egg case from insect lore.  This had been a gift for one of our kids last year as an experiential learning opportunity.  In secret though, this was going to be a good time for me.  Last year, however, when I went to order the case they were all out of them for the season.  I had to wait almost a full year to get my case.  In April we did get the case.  We finally put together their little pagoda and mesh home.  I had to tape the little pagoda inside because it wouldn’t stay together.  Not that the mantis would have minded, but I thought it best to kept he pagoda intact. 

Mesh case Praying Mantis Pagoda

The mantis egg case hung in our mesh container for nearly 4 weeks.  I began to believe that they would never hatch.  This weekend, I didn’t have a chance to really observe them to see how things we progressing.  Sleepy sand eyed on Sunday morning, I noticed that there were hatchlings all over the inside of this mesh container. 

tiny cute hatchlings

I woke the kids up, my daughter was thrilled and son couldn’t have cared less.  I remembered from the instruction booklet that they should be separated pretty soon after hatching to avoid them eating each other.  Not knowing if they had hatched Friday, Saturday or Sunday, I decided, better safe than sorry….I needed to separate them now and set them free.

Lessons learned while releasing praying mantis:

  1. Mantises hold on to the inside of the mesh container.  They do not WANT to come out.  Shaking them with all of your might will get them out, maybe legless and shocked, but on the ground at least.  Once on the ground, the ant population of the world will really appreciate your efforts.  Tribes of ants will gather to carry off mantis body parts.  The mantis head being carted away by the ants is an image I will never quite get out of my head.  (so sorry Manny)

    Ant food

  2. The information sheets say that fruit flies are an ideal food for the hatchlings.  Online information says that the food has to be smaller than the head of the mantis.  Well, either I have extra tiny mantis or Precambrian fruit flies because my fruit flies are 10 times bigger than the head of the mantis.
  3. Flightless fruit flies are available at Petco.  Call before you go and ask if the containers they have actually have LIVE fruit flies or your trip will be a waste of time. 
  4. The cute little pagoda that you taped has become a death trap for 2 mantises that no longer have their legs…thank you very much.
  5. Tiny spiders while food to the grown mantis are actually killers to the hatchlings.
  6. To stop the ant buffet in the backyard, I took my remaining 20 – 30 mantis to the backyard with a bunch of Tupperware containers (holes punched in the lids)  I decided to put in each container, 1 – 2 mantis, 3 fruit flies + fruit so that they could multiply if necessary, and some leaves.  I got the flies and the fruit into the containers just fine.  Again, the struggle was getting the mantis in there.  Finally got them in when a big wind picks up and blows the containers.  When I pick them up the mantis are flattened and stuck to the fruit. 
  7. Put them away for the night and fill the whole thing up with fruit flies and when you wake in the morning it will be a carpet of tiny dead mantis on the floor stuck to the goo of the banana and the carcasses of fruit flies that didn’t make it.
  8. Don’t get excited that you may have saved 3 because when you wake in the morning, the three will have become 1. 

 I am resigned that this experiment was a failure.  I secretly pray that some of the 100 or so that I let go of actually lived, there is always a chance I guess.  I plan to write to insect lore to inform them of my grim reaper status and ask for forgiveness and advice for next year.  I need to redeem myself.  I really wanted a mantis.  Can you believe Sears sells egg cases?

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