It was time.
The mantises in the classroom were getting bigger. And they were starting to eye each other with that lean and hungry look. Flightless fruit flies just weren't feeding the hunger any more, y'know?
So on Friday, as the kids were getting all squirrely and fidgety, I suggested to the teacher that we go on a little local "field trip".
So one kid from each table group came up to me, and together we scooped out six big praying mantids from our mantis tank.
You could tell that they could hardly wait. The minute I took the lid off of the terrarium, they were climbing out for a look around.
We walked outside in a somewhat orderly way, and into the garden in the front of the school. Then chaos ensued, because I was hoping to get a photo of each group 'releasing' their mantis, but I only managed to get a shot of Nate.
By the time I'd fired off this shot, everyone else was saying "Hey! What happened to our mantis? Where did he go? He's so camouflaged, I can't find him any more. Wah wah wah." cry me a river.
The teacher released one onto a flower.
And I had one of the girls re-release hers onto the apple tree. For the photo opportunity.
Here, let's take a closer look.
They really are hard to see after a while. They just blend right in. I guess that's their secret weapon. They're like ninjas.
Those critters don't have a chance, though, if the whole school knows there are 'cool bugs' in the front garden, so when we got back into the room, I told the class "Now class. The first rule of Mantis Release Club is "Nobody talks about Mantis Release Club""
But only the teacher laughed.
And then I found a mantis that escaped in the classroom, so I took him out to be free with his friends. For scale? My fingers are NOT this fat.
It was so fun, I went out the very next day and bought two more praying mantis egg cases. We'll see what sort of success we have hatching this next batch.
This batch of praying mantises came out of an egg case that we bought from insectlore.com. (pros: somewhat guaranteed for quality. Cons: more expensive) The next batch of insects, I'm hoping they'll hatch next month, are from two egg cases that I got at a local garden supply store. (pros: cheaper - 2 cases for $10.99. Cons: these egg cases seem slightly smaller that the one I got from Insect Lore) Praying mantises are a natural biological control of garden pests in this state, so most hardware stores sell them right along side the nematodes and ladybugs. And I'm pretty sure that they're a ubiquitous species, so they should exist across the country. I imagine that in harsher climates, they might not survive the winter, but I would think that their egg cases were pretty cold hardy. Last year, I noticed the praying mantis egg cases for sale at Home Depot. I'm pretty sure that I got my last one there, and just stuck it out in the yard. I never noticed it 'hatch' because there's very little debris left over after they hatch, harden, and disperse, but the egg case appears to be still intact.