You Might Not Want to Come to My House For a While

About four years ago, I purchased a praying mantis egg sac for my family. Things went well. They hatched, we released them into our backyard, and we even saw grown up manti* in our garden, like a year later. Success!

But then we moved and our new home had no mantids.

*sad face*

Alex asked me to procure another egg sac so we could populate our new garden with mantises and only remembering the cute little babies from last time, I eagerly looked up Insect Lore and made my second lifetime purchase of an egg sac.

We put the egg sac in its little net and hung it from a window. Then, much like last time, the egg sac just sat there until I became convinced it was a dead sac. It had been hanging below the window and I thought that maybe if it were in the sun, it might hatch better. For reasons that were logical at the time but disastrous in hindsight, I ended up turning the little habitat upside down in the windowsill.

Say what you will, but it seemed to have worked. The next day, Alex and I came home from a trip to the farmers’ market to find a net full of manti.

Photo of a net enclosure with a solid green top filled with with many small praying mantises.

Us: Oh cool! The mantes hatched!

But then we saw what was behind the little habitat.

Photo of a window sill covered in baby praying mantises.

Us: Oh shit! The mantids escaped!

I think you can picture what happened next. Whatever you are imagining though, you should add Alex loudly blaming me and me quietly coming to the realization that *I* had released dozens of tiny, vicious insects into my home.

See, when I turned the habitat upside down, I neglected to notice that the bottom, where the egg sac was supposed to sit, was solid. And the top, where the egg sac had come to rest when I turned it upside down, was mesh.

I had only one question, which was, “Why would you make and sell a praying mantis egg sac container THAT ALLOWS PRAYING MANTIS BABIES TO ESCAPE WHEN A DIPSHIT TAKES CARE OF THEM?” I mean, really. I can’t be the first person to turn that fucker upside down.

Alex, on the other hand, was FULL of questions, but they all sounded like, “WHY?! WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?! WHY?! WHY?! JEAN, WHY?!”

There were so many manti. So, so many.

And they were EVERYWHERE.

We freaked out for a little while about how to get them back into their net without releasing the other billion mantis that had compliantly stayed in their intended home. Fortunately, we’re also raising butterflies and our caterpillars hadn’t yet moved to their larger net, so we put the mantes’ net inside the butterfly net and Alex set to work catching the baby manti one by one with an index card and carefully placing them in the butterfly net.

Photo of Alex trying to pick up mantises with his index card.

In case you’re wondering why we didn’t just open the window and shove them out, (a) it was supposed to freeze that night and Alex was all, “If we put them outside, they’ll diiiiiiiieeeee and (b) that window apparently doesn’t open.

Alex sucked at that, by the way.

I stood nearby taking photos and telling Alex what a terrible mantis catcher he was as he continued to say, “WHY, JEAN?! WHY?!”

I tried to point out the silver lining that since we now had praying mantes living in the house, we would never have spiders again and Alex was all, “Yeah, we’ll have far more terrifying insects living here.”

Photo of two praying mantis babies. The one on the window is not in praying posture.

Until they become terrifying, they’re super cute though. Just look at them. Although when I posted this photo on Facebook, my friend pointed out that the one on the window is an athiest.

Eventually I took over mantis duty and, caring slightly less than Alex about their little lives, was far more efficient in escorting them to their new habitat.

For the rest of the day I felt like they were on me. And, different than most every other time I have screamed, “ARE THEY ON ME?! I THINK THEY’RE ON ME!” they probably fucking were.

After we had everyone with six legs (or at least most of them) contained, we showed the children the miracle of mantis birth. Or tried to. Some of our kids wanted nothing to do with them. Alex started telling them about the great escape before I shushed him. He then altered course.

“Quinn, if the manti had escaped in the house, would you want to know about it?” he asked. Quinn’s response was swift and vociferous: “NO.”

I guess he wants to be surprised in a few months when a fully grown praying mantis jumps out at him from our coat closet. More power to him.

 

* There seem to be several ways to pluralize “mantis.” I prefer “manti,” because it’s fun. My editor friend swears it is “mantids,” which is also great. I found a website that listed the plural form from different dictionaries that also suggested “mantises,” “mantes,” or even “mantis,” which is the exact same word as the singular. I have decided to use all these terms completely interchangeable because that amuses me.

My Kids Will Probably Never Go Into the Backyard Again

About a month ago, my friend Aimee wrote a post about her praying mantis egg case from which would eventually emerge 75-100 mosquito-eating manti.

Mostly what I heard was “mosquito-eating.”

Being highly suggestible, I succumbed to internet peer pressure and, after a vibrant Facebook discussion about the pros (mosquito-eating) and cons (they look like aliens) of 200 praying manti in your yard, temporary insanity won out and I impulse bought insects for my yard.

That bears repeating: I BOUGHT DOZENS OF GIANT INSECTS TO VOLUNTARILY PUT IN MY YARD.

Have I mentioned that I am terrified of insects, particularly manti?

Unfortunately, there is no buyer’s remorse clause over at Insect Lore, purveyor of live insects. Sure enough, as night follows day, sunrise follows sunset, and manti follow egg case, a package soon arrived bearing the fruits of my Facebook-fueled bug buying spree.

I had a moment of hope when it looked as if Insect Lore had sent me butterflies instead. Genuine butterflies.

And quality ones at that.

But when I opened the box, there was a mantis egg case in there. The egg case arrived on the day that Jack had come home “sick” because he was carsick and barfed in the school hallway. I decided that transferring the egg case from one container to another counted as science and meant that I was making good use of Jack’s time away from school.

Container one.

Container two.

Well done, Jack. Head on back to your Wii now.

And then the egg case sat there. It sat there for a few days and then it sat there for a few weeks and then I figured that maybe this time I’d managed to kill my pets even before they were born and the manti would never hatch. But then, a few days ago, I was wandering by and did a double take because what had spent three weeks being this:

had suddenly became this:

AAAAAIIIIIGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!

Part of me badly wanted to take it outside immediately, carry it to the waaay back of my yard, unzip it, and never think about it again, but I decided to wait until all of Team Stimey was assembled.

Until then, I practiced manti photography.

Some of Team Stimey was suitably impressed. Some of them refused to come near the manti, and some of them resented being forced by others of them to do the releasing because the latter someones were more afraid of the manti than the first someones.

Or something.

We spent some time arguing over the best place to release them. We didn’t want to step on them, but we wanted them to eat bugs in an advantageous spot. We also didn’t want them to get mowed or weeded away.

We selected a spot near the back of the yard, next to the garden, and probably too close to the neighbor’s fence. I hope they like manti too.

Then we released our little friends.

We’re coming to eat your faces!

I stopped by the next afternoon to check on them. I found a bunch of them tooling around where we had left them. I decided to recapture four of them to, I don’t know, have the opportunity to catch bugs to feed to other bugs.

Alex was none too happy about that, let me tell you. He was all, “You want me to catch what and put them where?”

We’ve sacrificed a few bugs to the manti, but I think we’re going to release them tomorrow morning because even I recognize how absurd our bug hunting is.

At that point, I will eagerly and skittishly await the next time I meet a mantis, which will probably be when one of the full grown bugs jumps on my face. I’m looking forward to it.

Maybe this guy.