We Have a Trained Mantis

We didn’t mean to. Really we didn’t.

My husband was walking at work and happened to see two mantis oothecas. That’s what their little egg sacks are called. He thought it might be nice to show the kids and set them out near the garden to eat all the things that plague my veggies in the summer. He wasn’t sure how cold it would get in the winter (it already snowed before Halloween!) so we left them in the kitchen for a little while.

And then we sort of forgot.

One day, when both my husband and I had some incredibly painful ankle wounds (long story), I hobbled to the kitchen to start the rice cooker and noticed a couple of bugs. Mantises?

 Wait, more. Um, a dozen. Or two. Oh. My. Gosh.

Oothecas have about 100-400 mantises in each one.

Only one of them had begun hatching and we quickly took the oothecas out to put on a branch, and gathered up as many babies as we could to put outside. I’m sure they didn’t last the winter, but I can’t keep 300 mantises. It just wouldn’t work.

But we did keep a couple dozen, in the herb planter in the kitchen window.

We watched them shed. Some got lost. We didn’t have a cage for them, so I was constantly rescuing them from the stove, the sink (oops.. better mist them, they get thirsty!) the ceiling, all sorts of places. Their numbers, sadly, dwindled. By the time they were 3rd or 4th instar (that means they’ve shed that many times) there were only a handful left.

Eventually, there were only two — a boy and a girl. One day I noticed they were missing. And I couldn’t find them any of the usual places. Not near the sink, the oven, the ceiling… then I spotted one running around on the laundry hamper that was waiting to go upstairs (my ankle was still pretty iffy and I couldn’t carry anything that heavy on steps). It was the male. I picked him up and put him back on the plants. Then I looked and saw the girl, running right up to where he had been. So I picked her up and put her in the plants. I smiled to myself at a job well done.

A few hours later, I was admiring the two little buggies, and suddenly… the female ran over to the male and jumped on him, and they both tumbled off the parsley onto the dirt. Oh! I think she is trying to eat him! Oh gosh, that’s why he was running away… I wonder if that’s where the other brothers and sisters went…? Oops.

So then there was one.

And she grew…

And grew….

And grew…

And then, just a few days ago, the oothecas outside hatched again. Tiny baby mantises went everywhere.

My husband checks on them every night and noticed one hatch right before another freeze night.

New baby

So we brought it in.

Both mantises in the window

Now, I’m pretty sure he’s too small for her to bother with. She eats crickets 2-3 times his size.

New skin

And she just shed again.

When she gets hungry, we can tell. She climbs the wall and hangs above the cricket cage. If you put a cricket in her big rubbermaid feeding arena, she’ll climb down, go in, eat, and leave. If she wants food, she hovers around near it.

Wait. Maybe she trained us!

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