Friday, October 3, 2008

Mantis Survives Wall Street Crisis!

I thought I might have to come up with a clever title to get you to read one more post on the praying mantis. But if you can bear with me, I promise this is my last post on the mantis--at least until next year. And there is a brief comment about Wall Street at the end of this. When I pictured a couple of mating mantises last week, I received many comments that included some interesting facts about the mantis I wasn't aware of. So I decided to do a little research on my own to find out more about these fascinating insects that seem to love my garden. All information comes from Wikipedia, which isn't the most reliable source if you're doing scholarly research, but it's a handy resource for basic information.

There are more than 2000 species of mantises worldwide. The name for the most common mantis family is
mantid, but because the entire order contains eight other families, the proper term for members of this order is mantis. Mantis comes from the Greek, meaning prophet or fortune-teller. The closest relatives of this order are the Isopteran, which are termites, and the Blattodea, cockroaches. Hmmm, I do hope the mantises don't invite all their distant relatives for a family reunion at my house.

Autumn is the time for mating, which may explain my good fortune in getting that photo last week. The female lays between 10-400 eggs, which are deposited in a "frothy mass" which then hardens, forming a protective shell. The egg case is called an ootheca. In a few species the mother remains nearby to protect her eggs.

Wikipedia included several photos, including one of the female laying her eggs, but didn't show a pregnant female. I spotted this large lady (I assume) two days ago. Notice her plump underbelly. The blurry photo below is an even closer look at her protuding belly. I can't be sure, of course, but I can't help but wonder if she is getting ready to lay her eggs. I will be scouring the flowerbed where I found her for an egg sac the next few days.

What many might find most interesting is the mating ritual itself. Praying mantises are cannibalistic, and as several of you pointed out to me last week, this predilection includes their male suitors. Scientists have studied mantises in captivity which are particularly prone to this behavior, and have drawn a few conclusions. Briefly, a wise male mantis will choose a female who has just eaten a full meal before mating, and, once he has satisfied himself, he should leave quickly!

The mantis uses camoufluage to hide himself from prey, which is why they are often difficult to spot. Usually brown or green, they blend in well with plants and are often mistaken for a small twig or stem. If you look closely at a mantis, it seems to be looking straight back at you. That's because they can rotate their heads 300 degrees, permitting a great range of vision, which also allows them a distinct advantage in spotting prey. Don't worry, though--they might bite, but they're not dangerous to humans.

The natural lifespan of a mantis is 10-12 months, but in colder areas it will die during the winter. During its lifetime, the mantis increases in size by replacing its outer body with an exoskeleton, molting up to 5-10 times. After the final molt, most species have wings. This was another new fact for me--I had no idea a mantis could fly. One day I was sitting on the porch swing when a strange creature came flying at me, veering like a drunken pilot. When he landed, I discovered this unusual mantis:

Yes, he is black. I couldn't find any reference in the article to a black species, and this is the only black mantis I have ever seen. However, in discussing the mantis' ability to camoufluage itself, the article did say some species in Africa and Australia have been found to turn black in order to blend in with environments plagued by brush fires. Could this be an exotic mantis come all the way from Africa or Australia to visit?? I doubt it, but it certainly was intriguing.

I've always thought of the praying mantis as a gardener's good friend; in fact, egg cases of native species can be purchased as a means of natural pest control. However, until some of you mentioned this, I didn't realize they also have a dark side. By nature predatory, the mantis eats not only pests, but beneficial insects as well, including butterflies sometimes. Larger species can also eat small lizards, birds, frogs, snakes, and even rodents. According to the article, they wait for their prey to come near and then lash out with "remarkable speed." I'll take their word for it--I've never seen a mantis move quickly, and I can't imagine them killing a rodent. (Maybe that's why I'm not bothered by squirrels??)

Fly, little butterfly, fly!! He's not as harmless as he looks!

So there you have it--everything you ever wanted to know about the praying mantis, and probably more than you cared to know! Despite its dark side, I'll continue to welcome him into my garden.

Changing the subject completely . . .

I am really bummed today : Things aren't looking too good for my Chicago Cubbies today. And that's all I'm going to say on the subject. . .

And another bummer: I don't usually comment on politics here, but the current economic crisis on Wall Street has me steamed. Perhaps by the time you read this, Congress will have passed the $700 billion bailout. A recent article by an AP writer tried to make this huge number comprehensible to those of us who have never seen a million dollars, let alone
700 billion. What else could you do with this much money? For starters, it would cover"one year's health care bills for more than 85 million seniors, disabled people, children and low-income Americans..." It could also "ensure universal health care coverage for six years." $700 billion would go a long way toward developing alternate energy sources and eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels. Any of these would be worthwhile causes, but the fact is we don't have an extra $700 billion in our Treasury in the first place, let alone spending it to save greedy or foolish financial "experts."

Now before anyone points out my naivete, let me be the first to admit I know nothing about economics. Through all my years of schooling, I somehow managed to never take a course in economics. When I receive my quarterly report on my small annuity (which has been losing my hard-earned money, I might add), I don't understand the difference between a large-cap fund and a mid-cap one. I still don't know who Freddie Mac is, and the only Fannie Mae I know sells delicious chocolate candies.

I don't know who is to blame for the current crisis, though everyone seems eager to point a finger at someone else. But I have trouble relating to CEO's who make millions of dollars in salary each year and have "golden parachutes." I don't think I even have a parachute. In fact, if the state's Teachers' Retirement System goes under, you will probably find me spending the rest of my life smiling and saying, "Welcome to Walmart . . .would you like a shopping cart?" Heck, maybe even I am partly to blame. When my husband and I got our "economic stimulus package" in June, instead of blowing it on a new entertainment system or a weekend in Vegas, we put almost all of it in savings. Had I only known...

I am doing my part to keep the gardening industry afloat--I bought more plants yesterday.

Seriously, I don't know whether Congress should pass the proposed bailout or not. Either way, I know it's going to eventually trickle down and affect every Joe or Jill Average American. In some way we are all going to have to pay for it, or our children eventually will. I particularly feel sorry for all the innocent people who may lose jobs or those whose retirement savings may be jeopardized or even lost. In the end, it always seems it's the "little guy" who gets hurt.


  1. Journalist Nancy Gibbs wrote: "A government that could not find money for health care or highways can suddenly find $700 billion for No Banker Left Behind." Great quote.

    But we might as well just enjoy the praying mantises, because we can't do anything about the bailout package, apparently. They are pretty cool bugs, if you ask me. My son used to keep one as a pet on campus, where he fed it on the other isects that wandered into his room. Not sure why he was attracting so many insect...maybe I don't want to know!

  2. I can see why you have such an interest in the mantis. They are indeed facinating creatures. I love the idea that the male chooses a well fed mate. Big is beautiful to a male mantis then!!

    And as for the financial crisis, I can't begin to understand all the ins and outs but someone somewhere has made millions and the rest of us seem to be paying.

    I guess it's lunch time with you now? I'm off to bed.
    Have a great weekend :)

  3. Hi Rose, that was a lot to know about mantids. I have something to add, one time there was a great big one sitting on the bleachers at a Nascar race in Bristol, TN, we used to live near there, and I tried to pick it up to look at it more closely, showing off my bravery to offspring gardoctor, a young teen at the time and the bug swiveled his head all the way around and bit me, hard, and would not let go! I had to shake and shake my finger with that thing hanging on for dear life! Way to go mom. ;-> I could have had a minor in economics and this I do know, printing more money, what they are doing, is NOT the way to get a country out of debt.

  4. Very interesting-all of it. I did not know mantises molt and that was how they grew. Neat. The current financial crisis, sigh, we could rail all day for sure, but I won't go there on here. Suffice it to say, I think the election will be interesting. Sorry about your cubs.

  5. Rose, as you probably know by now the bailout passed and Bush signed it just as fast as he could whip his pen out of his pocket. And we'd better all watch out for greasy spots-with all the pork in that bill some of it is bound to render out on us!

    On the matis side of your post, delightful info. Who says this blogging isn't educational and informative as well as entertaining? Go Cubs! (I can't believe I said that.)

  6. You are so right. In the end it's the little guy who gets it!

    Lots of interesting facts about the preying mantis. I had no idea they could eat snakes, birds or rodents. Never saw one that big!!
    Those mums look scrumptious. Did you buy them all. LOL. Tempting, isnt' it??

  7. Rose, you can post about those mantis in your garden as many times as you like. I never tire of seeing them or any other garden resident. I always get a kick out of finding those egg sacks. I moved one to the back garden last year so I would have mantis back there too. I only saw one back there. Maybe because it is so shady.

  8. Hi, Rose--Great info on the praying mantis. There's an urban (or maybe rural?) myth here that it's illegal to kill a mantis in VA, but I've never been able to confirm it (and it poses some problems for enforcement, but then again so do some other statues that I HAVE found . . . ) So you'll let us know if your mama is a mama?

    The whole bailout thing confuses me. I certainly share your frustration with the people who mismanaged things so badly. But Salix thinks the bailout is the right thing to do--not for the benefit of the CEO's and other administrators, but because of the repurcussions of these huge entities collapsing. He is concerned, though, about what kind of regulation or oversight will be applied to the corporations once they're bailed out. Awful times. Makes me wish there were mantises that preyed on Wall Street financiers . . .

  9. Loved this heartfelt post, Rose. Much time was spent and I appreciate the 'mantis' learning experience. Indeed, these are troubling times for all. I pray each day for all of us, victims of this horrific travesty. Good friends and family are 'tried and true' ... this much is TRUE :)

  10. Rose ~ You can never have too many posts on the mantis. I always enjoy your informative posts.

  11. I love the mantis will never bore me Rose, nature is always so fascinating.....I cannot get enough knowledge.
    A lot of insects will eat beneficial creatures and well as the bad guys but nature balances itself if we just allow it to.
    A great topic......

    Our economy, like your is in chaos. My son works in stocks and share...redundancies will be announced this month....I worry for him, he has worked so hard to achieve his goals without asking help from anyone, including us. His world will come crashing down if they select him...I worry.

    Still I believe when things hit rock bottom there is only way to go and that is up. Sometimes bad leads to good, we have to hang on in there and make the best of a bad situation. Many of us have been in crisis situations, I know we have.............this will all turn around eventually, and I have a feeling we will be better for it...

    On that note...........have a good weekend and keep smiling.....

  12. Joyce, "No Banker Left Behind"....I love it! I've never been too fond of insects--some little tiny gnats were all over the clothes I hung out yesterday--but the mantis just fascinates me.

    Suburbia, interesting that in some areas of nature, the woman is superior:) I don't understand finance either and have a hard time relating to billions of dollars. We're about 6 hours behind you, I think.

    Frances, Such a funny story! The article said mantises weren't poisonous; I guess they forgot to mention they could bite:)
    As for printing money, I never understood that--wish I could do that sometimes, too!

    Tina, I didn't know mantises molted either, but I was really surprised to find out they could fly!

    Beckie, Yes, I heard it had passed, including $1 billion in tax cuts and incentives. Tax cuts for who?? Oh well, I'll just stick to watching my garden--it's free:)

    Wendy, I can't believe a mantis could eat a snake or a rodent, but that's what the article said. I bought 4 mums for myself and 1 for each of my daughters-in-law, but it was so tempting to buy one of every color!

    Lisa, I've never seen an egg sac before, but then again I wouldn't have known what it was. I'm going to look for one this weekend. She was in my main flowerbed, so it will stay there anyway.

    Cosmo, That law does sound rather difficult to enforce:)
    I think Salix is right--the bailout was necessary to prevent a total collapse of our economy, but it's still frustrating. Where were the people supposed to be regulating the banking industry, etc.? Hopefully, some lessons were learned to prevent this from happening again.

    Joey, I happened to see Suze Orman on Oprah yesterday. Her advice was just what you said--enjoy who you are and your family and friends, not your possessions. Didn't paraphrase that very well, but you get the idea:)

    Cindy, Thanks! I've become intrigued by these insects.

    Cheryl, I'm beginning to see the balance in nature you talk about so often...a good reminder, too, that we shouldn't upset that balance.
    As to the economy, I've seen the term "redundancy" on someone else's post and wasn't sure what it meant. I assume it means the same as our "layoffs" or "downsizing", i.e., cutting out jobs? I do hope your son doesn't lose his job; I think Mary was concerned about her daughter, too. Those are the very people I feel badly for. I believe you're right about us pulling through; hopefully some lessons will have been learned here.
    A good weekend to you, too:)

  13. Rose, I think we could send a bunch of your insect friends to Washington and expect better results than we've seen lately. Maybe a few termites would shake things up for all of those "wooden-headed puppets." On another note, maybe the dark mantis blew in with the remnants of Hurricane Ike. Don't you just love pronouncing that word ootheca?

  14. I understand nothing about economics but your mantis information is cool! I'm glad you're keeping the local garden store going!

    That's a beautiful sky photo in the previous post too.

  15. W2W, I'm beginning to question the actions, or lack of, of the so-called financial experts who are supposed to know much more about economics than I. That's an interesting thought that the mantis came up from Ike; I haven't seen him around since that day.

    Liz, Hi! I obviously don't know much about economics either, just how much prices are going up here. Glad you liked the sky photo; we don't have the picturesque hills and countryside you have in Wales, just lots of flat fields!

  16. Rose, I love your posts about Mantis'. They are fascinating creatures. I am a closet Cubbies fan. No matter how long it's been since I lived in Illinois, I will always feel a loyalty to the Cubs. Go Cubbies!

  17. LOL! I love the title, although I would have read it anyway if it had been titled something like "Another Mantis Post" or "The Last Mantis Post."
    My retirement will be funded in large part by the State of Illinois' retirement fund, assuming there still is one when I reach retirement age. I might be joining you at the front door of Walmart. I've also done my part for the economy & bought a more plants too!

  18. Rose,

    Fantastic post all around...

    I will never get tired of mantis post...since they are MIA at Clay and Limestone I am totally enjoying yours! Maybe it's not fall enough is 81 degrees right now!

    Btw, you did a great job of summing up my frustrations about the $700 billion!

    I am personally keeping the garden industry afloat here in Nashville!


  19. Morning Glories, Glad you enjoy the mantises, too. As for the Cubs, they have broken our hearts once again...

    MMD, This may be the last mantis post for this year, but it probably won't be the last photo I use--I found another (or maybe the same female) one yesterday.
    It's kind of scary when you look at all the statisitics about people who are postponing retirement or never planning to because of their insecurity about their pensions.

    Gail, Glad you're finding the mantis posts interesting. Since I don't spend much on clothes anymore, plants have become my shopping extravagance:)

  20. Rose, thanks for the info on the Mantis! I didn't know they reproduce in the Fall...I took a photo of one two weeks ago and will need to go back and examine it.

    It all began when a recent president, one I will not name, said, "There will be houses for everybody!" It started years ago and I wonder where what the analysts were doing then...

  21. This was so interesting, even to me who has an aversion to most things that crawl, but who definitely appreciates their work in the garden. :)

  22. Interesting mantis post. I didn't know any of that. I find it most interesting that the female mantis eats her mate if he hangs around a bit. She doesn't mess around does she? None of this 'Let's have a trial separation' or 'We can still see each other as friends'.

    The financial situation? You would have suffered sooner or later, no matter what decision had been reached!

  23. I saw another one of the 2000 varieties on Jack Hann's show the other morning. They called it a stick bug.

  24. I am fascinated by nature and all her wonders and this preying mantis has always been a thrill to capture on film!! Yours are GREAT! ..and so the information!

  25. Mary, I learned so much about the mantis I didn't know before either when doing this research. In reading about the financial crisis, I agree this didn't begin overnight.

    Nancy, I've never much liked the "creepy crawlies" either, but blogging has changed all that:)

    Mean Mom, the male mantis would do well to be nice to his mate:)

    Marnie, I've heard of a walking stick, but not a stick bug. I'm surprised I haven't seen a walking stick this year.

    Nature Girl, I've come to appreciate all the insects so much more this year. The mantis is one of the easiest to photograph because it moves sooo slowly:)

  26. Dear Rose,
    I love the mantis and never can see too many.
    "no banker left behind" has me laughing...thanks Joyce!
    I shall share this quote and keep laughing...easier on the face than crying.
    Think I shall plan on planting more food next spring. We might be grazing in the backyard before this crisis is over.

  27. Great info on the mantises! The photos are great - I especially like the black one - and I didn't know they mated and laid eggs in the autumn. :)


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