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Project Mantis

April 14th, 2010

Project Mantis has been a colossal failure. WTF am I talking about? Our attempt to raise a praying mantis.

It all started a month ago when I received a catalog from Insect Lore, the same place where I got my butterfly kit. As soon as I saw their Praying Mantis Pagoda, I knew I had to have it because the Praying Mantis is one cool insect.

The kit I got came with a live egg case which hatched last Thursday. It actually scared the crap out of me! It was after work and I was cleaning out Bonzai’s tank when my eye caught movement. I looked over at the container where I had put the egg and saw ton of mantids crawling around. I jumped back in shock, then took a photo and texted it to Joe, who was with his kids at the time. I believe my exact words were, “Holy shit, they hatched!!!” There had to be at least fifty of them in there, if not more (the site estimates between 75-200 nymphs will come out of one egg).

Not expecting them to have hatched so quickly, we had no suitable food on hand. A newly hatched mantis is about the size of a large mosquito and they only eat live bugs, so I was worried how we’d feed them. We waited until Friday after work to look for bugs outside, but we couldn’t find any of the aphids they would eat, so we released the majority of them in plants around our patio, but kept three in the included enclosure.

On Saturday we visited a very cool pet store out in Marengo, IL. The place is huge and very clean! It was like visiting a mini zoo. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the pinhead crickets they advertised on the site, but they had some relatively small ones, so we bought a bunch of them and put three in the enclosure with the mantids. None of them went after the crickets, however. We kept trying to catch fruit flies, by leaving fruit outside, but dammit, it wasn’t happening. We got ants, and tried those, but still, nothing happening. By the time Monday rolled around we had three dead mantids, some dead ants, one dead cricket, and a bunch of live crickets. With much disappointment, we let the remaining live crickets free.

At least some of the mantids we released are still alive – I keep checking on the big potted plant on our patio and there are at least two in there right now looking even more lively than they did originally. I read that they don’t stray far from their original hatching location, so maybe we can grab one when it gets bigger and try again.

I think next year I’m going to do tadpoles!

Photos on Flickr

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