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.
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.
Us: Oh cool! The mantes hatched!
But then we saw what was behind the little habitat.
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.
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.”
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.