19 March 2006

The Praying Mantis Story

Several months back, I came upon a praying mantis taking a nap on a fence at work. I tired, not to successfully, to get pictures of him. (see blog: 8 Nov). Since that time, I have been on the look-out for another. Then, on Friday, I saw one, on the same fencing material, but across the way from my first sighting.

I had no camera with me this time, but went over and talked to him. He totally ignored me and continued to rest. I was very pleased.

That next day at home, as I was opening curtains, I was surprised to see yet another praying mantis right on the bedroom window screen. When I leaned over to say hello, I realized that he was in fact on the inside of the screen, trapped in my apartment. I quickly opened the screen and tapped it hoping he would fly away. He didn’t. I tired a few other tactics, but he remained glued in place. I then went and got a plastic container and tried to coax him in. He still wouldn’t move. Carefully, I laid my hand next to him until he had no choice but to hop on board.

I was surprised at how sticky his little mantis feet felt as I slowly got him off my hand and into the container. Next, I gently deposited him on the windowsill and closed the screen. I had assumed that he would immediately fly away. But he just sat there and I started to get worried. I asked him if he was all right, but he didn’t answer.

I left him there for a few minutes and when I went back to check, he hadn’t moved. Had I inadvertently brought him home from work and trapped him in my house and now he was dying? Or had he flown in the night before and now was weak from lack of food? I went to the refrigerator and got some green leafy vegetables for nourishment although, I thought, maybe he eats little insects. Again, I left him hoping he would eat and fly away. He didn’t.

The next time I looked, he was on his side, roasting in the heat. Quickly, I picked him up, brought him inside, and placed him on the cool tiles by the balcony door. He was alive, but weak and I hoped it was just shock. Then I got a little plastic lid and put water in it. Do these creatures drink water from troughs? I bent down to talk to him and pet him. I told him to relax on the tiles, and that I would leave the door open so that he could fly away when he was ready. I also closed the curtains part way to keep it cooler.

An hour later, I needed to leave. My praying mantis was now on his side again. I moved him against the wall and propped him up. I thought about leaving him on the balcony just incase he did revive and could fly off while I was away. But I decided he wasn’t long for the world and he would feel safer inside. I entertained the thought of putting him out of his misery, but simply couldn’t do it. I really hoped that insects didn’t have a complex neural system and that he wasn’t in pain. I explained to him that I was going out and that he should rest.

When I got back home several hours later, he was again on his side, and I assumed he was dead. I carefully picked him up so that I could look closely at his amazing structure. He was so beautiful. And then a front leg slightly moved. My poor little mantis was still struggling, and I was still unable to end it all for him under the weight of a shoe. I remembered hearing about the painless, freezer technique for euthanizing goldfish. I put him in a tiny Tupperware, gave him a last pet, and into the freezer he went.

He is still there. I am not sure what to do with him. I suppose I should hone up on insect rescue techniques incase it ever happens again.