Up Close and Personal With a Praying Mantis
At the Bohart Museum of Entomology's open house on Saturday, Sept. 21 from 1 to 4 p.m., at the University of California, Davis, you'll see not one, but two, praying mantids.
And very much alive.
Doctoral candidate Fran Keller collected one, and the other is the one I collected last Saturday when it was preying on a monarch butterfly. (When I lifted the struggling monarch from the lantana, the praying mantis came attached.)
That was five days ago. For her dining pleasure, I have offered "my" praying mantis one cabbage white butterfly, one skipper butterfly, five live crickets, and six wiggly mealworms. We know she is a "she" because she's quite pregnant. But ahem. Someone in my household (no names specified here to protect the guilty) thinks the terrarium she occupies is a "torture chamber." When I popped in a cabbage white butterfly, Mrs. Praying Mantis and Mrs. Cabbage White Butterfly slept side-by-side all night, an inch apart, and then the next morning, Mrs. Praying Mantis ate her.
She left only the wings.
Hey, as butterfly expert Art Shapiro, UC Davis distinguished professor of evolution and ecology, says: "A praying mantis has to eat, too."
Now Mrs. Praying Mantis is renting quarters, having bed and breakfast, at the Bohart Museum. I assume she is quite happy with her surroundings and is quite pleased with her menu, which I'm sure includes cabbage whites (pests).
Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum, assures me that Mrs. P.M. (that could stand for Pest Management!) cannot fly even if she wanted to. "She's too heavy," she said.
There's a twig in her terrarium for Mrs. P.M. to lay her eggs--if she so desires. I'm not sure she desires.
But, back to the open house. Theme of the open house (free and open to the public), is "Live at the Bohart!" And that includes Mrs. Praying Mantis, aka Mrs. P.M. The venue: Room 1124 of thee Academic Surge building on Crocker Lane, formerly California Drive. Although the Bohart houses nearly eight million insect specimens from around the world, it also has a "live" petting zoo that includes Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks, a rose-haired tarantula and an elusive jumping spider (that came in as a visitor on a bouquet of roses and subsequently became a permanent resident) and a “Harry Potter bug” (which is an amblypygid commonly known as a whip spider or tailless whip scorpion).
The real attractions this Saturday, however, will be cabbage white butterflies and Gulf Fritillary butterflies: museum officials will tell you how to rear them.
I imagine Mrs. Praying Mantis will concentrate quite heavily on the movements of the cabbage white butterflies and the Gulf Fritillaries.
Waiter! Will you hurry, please? I'm hungry.
Night time for the praying mantis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The praying mantis, quite camouflaged. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)