Thursday, March 11, 2010

Commotion in the classroom

I arrived at school a little bit later than I wanted to, this morning, in time (barely) to work in the library with Nate's class. Fortunately, there are 2 other volunteers in our class, who are most capable, and they had everything taken care of as I waltzed in the door.

And oh! The minute I came in the door...

"Kemma!" shouted the teacher, not using her 'library voice' at all.

"Kemma! They hatched! They hatched! I've been texting you, and I left you a message on your cell. I didn't know what we should do with them. Or if we should feed them, or release some of them! oh! DID YOU BRING YOUR CAMERA?????"


I didn't quite know what to say, as I really hadn't figured out what Ms. Henderson was talking about, until she went on...

"It was right at recess, when two of the girls noticed the egg case, and came shrieking to me to tell me that it looked all broken..."


We have Praying Mantis Babies.

Yesterday, I moved the egg case out of the dorky (and expensive!) 'Praying Mantis Pagoda" that had come with the egg case from, and affixed it into the fancy terrarium that I had set up for the walking stick insects. Alas, the walking sticks didn't survive their sojourn in the classroom. I'm a bit worried that I may have a toxic plant (or toxic potting soil?... Oh man! I hope it's not potting soil with built-in insecticide. That'd be tragic!). Anyways, I moved the egg case into the terrarium yesterday, and that must have been all it needed.

My first look in the terrarium:

All those dangly bits out the bottom of the egg case look sort of like shed praying mantis skins. I think they do their first moult as soon as they come out of the egg case, so that makes sense. (and to get a sense of scale, the egg case is held up on a paper clip)

But look at all the plants! They are covered in these little guys.

I will admit that after taking a photo or two, I felt myself getting itchy all over, imagining that the little mantids were escaping, and crawling over me. There are probably 50-70 of the little creatures in the tank.

When I saw them at 11 this morning (about an hour after they hatched), they were pale yellowish, and nearly translucent.

Only their eyes seemed to have any pigment.

(curses! Why didn't I wipe down the inside of the terrarium glass after I misted the plants yesterday? That would have given me such a better view!)

Each one of these little guys was perfectly formed. Like a miniature adult (which is what they are). And they were all busy, busy, busy.

It seemed to be no effort at all for these guys to climb the glass walls, and navigate their way across the mesh lid of the tank.

I grabbed one of the more adventurous ones, and made Nate's teacher hold it for me, so I could take its portrait.

But I realized that I would need to get these guys food, or they were going to start cannibalizing each other. And that was a little part of nature that I don't think second graders are quite ready to deal with, even if they are all sanguine about the toads eating crickets and worms.

So I went off to Petco, for a vial of flightless fruit flies. They look so innocuous in their little vial, hopping around on the sponge lid. You have no idea that when you take their photo later, they're going to be Rosemary's Baby with their demonic glowing red eyes.

There are two flies in the lower right quadrant of this photo. The mantis is stalking them. I don't know if he caught them or not. And can you see how much the mantis has changed in just the three hours since the previous photos? Now they have darkened up considerably, and just look more hardened and substantial.

Eek! Here's another creepy red-eyed fly. *shudder*

I can hardly wait to go back to school tomorrow, and see how much they have changed overnight. I'm hoping to take photos of all the kids with a praying mantis on their index finger. Yeah, we'll see how that goes. Some of the kids were scared of a butterfly... oh well, I can dream.

I sure hope the praying mantids don't escape. That would just give me the willies for sure.

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