Thursday, May 26, 2011

Our new "pets"

Last Friday, my Mom sent us home with some new "pets." She had purchased a praying mantis cocoon at Watson's Greenhouse, and the previous weekend it had hatched with hundreds of little guys filling the plastic tub she had it in.  There were so many, that she decided to share and sent several (12-15) of the little guys home with us. 

The theory behind the project is to have a natural form of pest control for the garden.  The praying mantids eat all the "bad bugs" like aphids and they are rather pleasant to have around.  They do not bite or sting and they offer endless opportunities for photography practice as they sit very still.  While they are in confinement in their containers, we have to bring in food and a little water for them, but once outside they should require no maintenance at all, except for being careful not to drop them into the compost pile when we do weeding and trimming.

My youngest is fascinated.  He loves anything little, and bugs are a big hit with him.  The first day we went to feed them we hunted outside for anything smaller than they were.  We found a few leaves with aphids and some tiny ants on them.  Evidently these ants were "farming" the aphids.  We tossed them in the praying mantis container, and a few hours later when we went to check on them we were met with carnage.  There were dead mantids all over - and happy little ants gathering them into piles and feeding them to the aphids.  We quickly removed the ants for the containers, but our numbers were down to about 9 or 10 mantids. 

The next issue we ran into was on the lid.  A piece of mesh window screen was attached to the top with gorilla tape for ventilation.  Unfortunately, the tape was so sticky that the little mantids legs were getting stuck and they were unable to free themselves.  Now we were down 3-4 more.  We've leveled off at about 6-7 (maybe 5) and it has held for a few days. 

I told my youngest, "Now remember, these are little buggies and sometimes they die so don't get too attached."

He replied, "I know, I won't."  Then turning to the praying mantis box said, "Hello little guys!  I love you!"

Boy I hope they make it!

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