Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mantis Portraits

The praying mantis babies looked so much different yesterday when I was in Nate's class. They're all dark-ish, and kind of brownish-green and camouflaged in the plants. The teacher had thought they'd all eaten each other, but they're just really getting good at hiding. I gave the plants a bit of a misting with a spray bottle, and the little mantids went scurrying around, making the soil look like it was alive in places.

I figured with so many babies, if we lost one or two it wouldn't matter, so I had all the kids line up (they were starting to get a bit antsy, so I used my drill sergeant voice, and they actually LISTENED!), and then passed a mantis down the ranks, letting the kids hold out their cupped hands, and watching as the mantis crawled across one hand, then jumped to the next. I must have gotten a hungry one, and he was on the prowl for food. Sorry, Charlie. No insects on these kids... ooh! I wonder what a mantis would do if it ever jumped on a kid with head lice? Would that be a good natural cure? Or would the cure be worse than the disease? But I digress...

Then I made them all sit back down at their desks, and I called them up one at a time to hold the mantis while I took their photos.

I had no idea if the pictures would work or not.

I really want to see about renting a macro lens, and seeing what kind of shots I can get with that.

But here are a few.

That one is Nate. He thought it was funny that the mantis was 'waving' at him. In actuality (and I can only tell this after blowing up the photo), the mantis is cleaning his limbs by running them through his mandibles. But hey, it does look like he's waving, doesn't it?

I was surprised at how non-squeamish the kids were, handling the mantis. Some of the children had been WAY more leery of touching the butterfly, which I thought was completely innocuous and dainty. Maybe it's a matter of size. Something tiny isn't as creepy as something larger (yet prettier). Who knows?

Then he went back into the mantis tank, and I put a mantis into the toad tank. The toads seem to be ignoring him, and he's having plenty to eat with all the fruit flies that the toads also seem to be ignoring.

After we'd played with the mantis, I set up a 'science experiment' for the class. Each table group got a tupperware container with a piece of fruit in it. Five different pieces of fruit. Then I put a few flightless fruit flies, and a few pupa cases into each tub, and they'll get to observe what happens over the course of the next few weeks. I hope we can establish a nice colony of creepy fruit flies, so that the mantis babies will have plenty to eat. Ideally, we'd be able to raise the mantis colony until the end of the school year, and then send each kid home with their own mantis, to keep or release as they saw fit.

That's my plan, anyways.

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