Well, this is the finale of the great mantis experiment. Yesterday Camera Girl used her hawk-eye super vision to find an adult praying mantis in the jungle-like weeds of her vegetable garden. In fact, the mantis was on one of her Japanese eggplant plants. Princess Sack-of-Potatoes will know that praying mantises really do exist although unfortunately they do not talk in an English-accented throaty whisper as they do in an Eric Carle picture book video. But they are indeed monsters that inhabit the tiny world of our garden. And that’s a fun thing for a little child to discover.
So the first survivor has made his appearance in the yard. This one found his way into the stella d’oro daylilies in the swimming pool area. May he be the first of many that show up. My little granddaughter will find out that praying mantises don’t talk like they do in her Eric Carle books but they are very exciting for an insect.
Good hunting little fellow.
So this summer is an experiment to see if I can stock the fields and garden with praying mantises. I’ll have to say, I haven’t seen any of the released mantids but I wanted to say a few words about my history with this insect.
My paternal grandfather was a doctor and he had a fellow physician who liked to give books as gifts to his friend’s children. And one of these gifts was a very handsome edition of Fabre’s Book of Insects to my father when he was a boy. Well, in my turn I inherited this book and I was fascinated by the author’s scientific investigation of the common insects to be found around the fields of Provence, France and charmed by the very attractive illustrations that adorned its pages. In fact I still enjoy looking through the book and seeing these pictures eighty six years after it was published. And I’ve provided copies of the book to my own grandsons to try to capture that same sense of wonder at combining nature and art in a form that a young boy can enjoy.
So I’m juxtaposing the original inspiration of my interest in the mantids with my own modest attempts to document their fascinating existence.
Well, the little buggers arrived two days ago and unharmed apparently. Some hatched out today so I held onto a few and attached the egg cases to tree and shrub branches around the perimeter of the yard.
But I’ll try to feed them by raising fruit flies and letting them feed on them. Here is my fruit fly attractant.
The game is on!
My two-year-old granddaughter is a big fan of the books by the children’s author Eric Carle. And one of her favorites is the Very Quiet Cricket. There is a YouTube video of an animated version of the book and one of the characters is a preying mantis that whispers in a hoarse voice a funny sounding “HELLOOOOO!” And that character is my granddaughter’s favorite part of the book. So, she is a fan of preying mantises. And by a strange coincidence so am I. I’ve always liked finding mantises wherever I have lived. And I have found them here in New England too but infrequently.
And so, for that reason I’ve decided to increase my odds of finding them this summer for my granddaughter. She said, “Pa, show me preying mantis.” She calls me Pa because that is what all my grandchildren call me. My oldest grandson made the name up when he was barely able to speak and it became official.
So I have to find her a mantis. I looked to see if any of the gardening supply stores in the area sell preying mantis egg cases. They didn’t so I just ordered some on-line and should have them soon. Camera Girl thinks it will be educational to see the baby mantises hatch out and thinks we should keep a few to raise up. The prospect of finding aphids and then larger insects to feed them sounds challenging but I’ll give it a try.
With any luck by summer we’ll have a few good sized mantises and my granddaughter will learn a little bit about an interesting insect. At least that’s the plan.
So over the Labor Day Weekend I did a walk around and with the aid of Hawkeye (aka Camera Girl) we spotted some creatures that look like they belong in a pint sized Jurassic Park.