Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Twofer Tuesday--recent visitor

This preying mantis stopped by to visit the other day. I found her on my doorjamb, and spent some time with her in various poses. In the spirit of Twofer Tuesday, here are three sets of two photos, and two true stories of mantises past. A warning, the stories might be a bit gruesome--but they do involve first graders.

When I taught first grade, most years we had a preying mantis as a classroom pet. She would live in a tank in the classroom. Preying mantises will only eat live food, so the kids would catch grasshoppers during recess to feed her. It was quite a sight seeing several first graders chasing through the playground with butterfly nets. Both boys and girls were great grasshopper catchers.
One year for Open House, the parents were to visit their children's classrooms where the teacher was to explain the curriculum. That day I was ready with math and reading handouts and all the materials on display, but I also made sure that the kids had collected a good supply of grasshoppers. Just as the parents came in, I dumped the grasshoppers into the tank.
The parents were gathered to listen to my presentation, standing around mostly because first grade chairs are--well--not adequate for most adult behinds. Now, I probably could have made the curriculum a bit more interesting, but then, my plan would not have hatched if the parents had been totally engaged in the rigors of phonics and math facts. One distracted dad was looking around, and spotted the preying mantis in the tank--a wiggling grasshopper under each arm.
My presentation came to a swift conclusion as every parent in the room had to gather round to watch Miss Mantis bite the heads off each grasshopper in turn.

I think it was a different year when our young part time janitor Frankie stopped in the room one afternoon as he was sweeping and proudly told me that he had brought my preying mantis a brother the night before. I quickly went to check the tank. Yep! Only one big green insect.
You see, preying mantises in captivity should be kept isolated. Out in the yard they have enough space to enjoy each other's company--or not. They are territorial. I don't know how much territory each mantis needs to itself in the open, but it is definitely more than one large fish tank. You see,if more than one is put in the same container, they become cannibalistic.
You sometimes expect teen aged boys to appreciate a little bit of violence from time to time. It was, perhaps, a bit too much violence for Frankie when I told him my preying mantis had eaten his preying mantis. I can still see the look on his face.

By the way, these guys do look like they are saying their grace before those grasshopper meals, so actually their name is praying mantis. But don't you think their behavior justifies their being preying mantises?

Twofer Tuesday is Jonna's inspiration. Two related photos or groups of two. Today, also two true stories. I hope they weren't too violent for you.


Mary said...

Great stories and of course great photos! I think I can see Frankie's face, too! Funny! I agree that "preying" would be more appropriate. I remember watching one eat a butterfly once....gross.

B. Roan said...

Loved the stories and photos. I can't believe you picked it up. They scare me. BJ

CrazyCath said...

Absolutely fascinating! I hadn't noticed the "e" in preying until the end, yet I have always spelled it and known them as "praying" mantises, due to their posture. But I think you are quite right about their behaviour!

Poor Frankie.

Anonymous said...

I have never been aquainted with a mantis - I confess they intmidate me somewhat.
A great post though.

Greyscale Territory said...

What a terrific, entertaining, informative post! I did not know mantises ate one another because of territorial claims! Incredible!

PERBS said...

WOW! What a story! Great photos too.

Jonna said...

Your post brought back memories of my staying outside and watching all sorts of critters when I was young. My mother was also a teacher, mostly 3rd grade for her career. She also tells of these great teacher/parent/staff stories which keep us in stitches!

AVCR8TEUR said...

I have never seen a mantis in "the wild". I'm not really an insect person so I coul never hold one like you can. I have to confess that I'll get squeamish. Nice photos though.

Meg Wolff said...

I enjoyed these photos and your stories. I had forgotten about preying mantis ways.

My favorite memory of elementary school was making a terarium in science and watching the plants inside grow. I put a cricket in mine and then he got lost in my house.

I had to keep all other insects outside!