Insect Vogue

Praying mantis in cupAs I drove through town, the mantis scrabbled at the side of the cup. Steve peered in through the hole in the top of the lid.

“Is he OK?”

“He’s fine,” Steve said.

I drove faster anyway. I, for one, try to limit my amount of time in a week-old coffee cup, and I was certain it wasn’t all that exciting for the praying mantis. Well, perhaps it was exciting, but certainly not in the roller coaster sort of way. More in the Federal prison sort of way.

When we arrived at the house, I asked Steve to hang tight while I got the camera.

“Let’s just take him inside,” he said. “It’ll be easier to shoot his picture in the house.”

Passing the mantis“Inside?” I had visions of the praying mantis taking up permanent residence in our closet.

“It’ll be fine. We’ll close the doors and keep him in the kitchen.”

Steve sat at the kitchen table, and I positioned myself with the camera.

“Ready?” he asked, before lifting off the lid. The mantis crawled out of the cup and rested on Steve’s hand.

It stretched its legs for a moment, then began cleaning his front feet.

“Uh oh,” said Steve. “He’s getting the coffee off. He’s going to be up all night.”

I shot pictures as fast as I could – close-ups, wider shots, hoping everything was in focus but not taking time to check. I repeated “It’s so cool!” ad infinitum. The mantis sat still, peering at the camera, occasionally reaching out one leg toward the lens if I got a little too close.

Praying mantis in hairHe began to crawl off Steve’s hand, and I put mine down to take him, still shooting the whole time. Then, in a blur, he dashed up my arm.

“Where is he?” I stood very still, afraid I’d scare him off me.

“He’s just on your shoulder,” Steve said. “Actually, now he’s playing with your hair.”

Steve shot photos until the mantis took a great leap and flew across the kitchen to the top of the toaster oven. I took the camera back as the mantis flew over to Steve and crawled up the front of his shirt, ending on top of Steve’s head.

“Excellent shot,” I said. “Good mantis.”

Eventually, the photo session had to end. It was getting late, and it was time to take the mantis outside.

“Are you just going to carry him outside?” I asked.

“I might try to put him back in the cup,” Steve said. “I think that’ll give me a better chance of actually getting him from the house to the garden.”

Steve picked up the coffee cup in one hand, let the mantis crawl onto his other hand, and tried to put the insect back in the cup.

The mantis had grown wise to us. Flash photography? No problem. Literal manhandling? A-OK. But a return to the coffee cup? No way, no day. The mantis spread its legs like a puppy who recognizes the car carrier means a trip to the vet, and blocked every attempt by Steve to re-cup him.

“I think I’m just going to have to carry him out,” Steve said.

And so he did. And I followed him, and there, at the edge of the garden, the praying mantis flew off Steve’s hand and into the squash plants, into the dark dirt below.

I missed him already.

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13 Responses to “Insect Vogue”


  1. 1 Alanna September 8, 2006 at 12:56 pm

    So if FarmGirl has a Lamb Daughter, is there now Bug Progeny here? And did the little one just go off to the Kindergarten Garden? Or hmm, BugGarten?

  2. 2 Christa September 8, 2006 at 3:13 pm

    Cool-looking insect! Great photos, Genie. I’ve seen a praying mantis once before (oddly enough, also on a store window).

    Hopefully, it’ll stick around in your garden for awhile. It sounds like you’ve gotten quite attached to him!

  3. 3 Jenn September 8, 2006 at 7:34 pm

    That’s a beautiful story, I’m a all teary eyed!

    Aren’t they great beasties?

  4. 4 jugnoo September 9, 2006 at 7:13 am

    Very nice story indeed & interesting toooo :)

  5. 5 Loretta September 9, 2006 at 2:24 pm

    So cute! And he totally loves your Steve, it looks like.

  6. 6 cole September 9, 2006 at 2:27 pm

    NAME HIM? please.

    So great. I loved that he was NOT going back into the cup. So cool. You should check out what the egg sacks look like so you don’t discard it by accident this fall cleaning up in the garden.

    xxoo

  7. 7 cole September 9, 2006 at 5:26 pm

    Jasper says, “your story was pretty great”

    love, Jaspers mom Cole

  8. 8 inadvertentgardener September 11, 2006 at 10:00 pm

    Cole, I’m so glad Jasper loved the story — I’m honored! We didn’t name the mantis, unfortunately, but if he returns…I’ve got a name in mind.

    Loretta, yes — he was a big fan of Steve. :-)

    Imran, thanks!

    Jenn, they’re fabulous. I have this guy as my desktop picture!

    Christa, interesting…they must be attracted to the reflection or something.

    Alanna, BugGarten. I love it!

  9. 9 Bug shop January 7, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    Fantastic! You can purchase live praying mantids at my store, http://www.insectstore.com
    Great read, thanks!

  10. 10 inadvertentgardener January 7, 2007 at 9:52 pm

    Bug Shop, that’s an interesting idea…I’ll have to think about that. I’m kind of partial to finding them accidentally, though!

  11. 11 Anthony May 4, 2008 at 10:31 am

    Wow, that is one adorable bug.

    He’s so tame too! Wow. He’s such a cutie.

  12. 12 inadvertentgardener May 6, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    Anthony, he was incredibly cute! And you’re right — quite tame.


  1. 1 The Inadvertent Gardener Trackback on September 13, 2006 at 6:28 pm

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