• Fran Stewart

Monsters Unknown

I’ve always like praying mantids. Sometimes they’re called PREYing mantids, and I’m learning that the second name is more appropriate.

Whatever they’re called, one of them showed up on my hummingbird feeder last summer. I welcomed her, remembering fondly the time way back when in Vermont when we ordered a couple of mantis egg cases. When they arrived, we put one in the garden and kept the other one inside so we could watch them hatch.

Naturally, they hatched when we weren’t there to see. I don’t recall whether it was night or while we were away at work during the day, but we found the baby mantids (or mantises if you prefer) greedily chomping on each other. Naturally, we whisked the terrarium right outdoors and released them all.

Except for one little critter that seemed to like it in the terrarium. I spent hours collecting bugs for her to eat. She got used to walking onto my outstretched finger to take the bugs I offered her, and she grew to a substantial size before I finally let her go.

One day I was weeding a garden patch and a mantid appeared on a nearby flower. Every time I’d seen a mantid that summer, I’d stretched my finger out, but all the mantids reared up on their hind legs and tried to scare me away. With that particular one, though, I stretched out my index finger and she stalked up onto it as if to ask, "So, where’s my bug?"

Talk about a moment in nature!

So, when the mantid came to my hummingbird feeder a few months ago, I carefully coaxed her onto a stick and transferred her to a plant that had a sizable collection of bugs on it, thinking she’d be happy with such a readily available food source. The next morning she was back on the hummingbird feeder.

This went on for a couple of days, and she finally disappeared. I sighed and went back to writing.

Imagine how appalled I was to find out some weeks later that preying mantids are quite capable of catching and eating a hummingbird. She hadn’t been resting on my feeder—she’d been waiting for dinner to come to her.

Phooey on that!

If she shows up again next summer, I plan to evict her.