Free Range Mantidsrequest from the esteemed Mr. Fox...
A couple of months ago, all of our house plants became infested with spider mites. Spider mites! In addition to being disgusting webby little creatures, they were killing my frends the plants.
I tried killing them with some non-toxic hippie insecticide, but all that did was keep them in check. If that, even. But determined not to use poison indoors, I headed to Cole Hardware, and came home with live ladybugs and mantid egg cases.
The ladybugs cleaned house. I let somewhere betwen 50 and 100 go indoors at the base of the plants. 48 hours later they were all gone, and so were the mites. And aphids, and other creepy crawly little things. Yeah, ladybugs look sweet, with their little spots and their red coats, but don't let them fool you. They are stone-cold killing machines.
The rest I let go in the garden, and placed one of two mantid egg cases out there. The other case I took inside and, as per the instructions on the box, placed in a bowl so I could "watch them hatch."
Now, silly me, I presumed that they couldn't, you know, get out of the bowl. That they'd be there for a while. In the bowl. And quite honestly, after a few weeks I more or less forgot about them.
And then last week I walked in the kitchen one evening and noticed some sort of bug crawling on the wall. It was a mantid nymph. And his 500 brothers. Oh, man.
I scooped a few dozen, or hundred, or, I don't know thousand, into a jar and took them out back to the garden. But I left a few inside because, well, they're cute. Like itty bitty aliens. They'll cock their heads over to look at you. They follow you with their eyes. It would be creepy if it weren't so cute.
They're especially cute when they drink. A few times a day I'll spritz all the plants with some water from a spray bottle. The mantids will then lean down, bending their narrow little bodies, and slurp up the water off of leaves.
I've been trying to figure out what to do with them, how to feed them. I've only seen one eat anything. That would be the jaunty fella pictured here. He munched an aphid. I was so proud.
So last weekend I ordered some fruit flies, from an obsessive mantid site I found, and they arrived today. Special delivery, Mr. Honan. Your flies are here.
This has been a challenge. For obvious reasons, I don't want to just let all the fruit flies out. I've been trying to feed them individually, but that hasn't always gone so well. The guy on the flower here has been gangbusters. He's quite tame, and he'll eagerly lean over to take fruit flies off my finger. The rest, not so much. I've started putting a few fruit flies in a jar and then dropping a mantid in there with them, and letting them out after they've eaten.
I'm not quite sure where I go from here. The few that are left inside aren't going to starve, I don't think. But I don't know how many mantids I want to keep inside. And I don't really want to cage them, I prefer free range mantids, but how to keep them out from underfoot? From scurrying out the window to the barren wasteland of our roftop empire? And how many do I want to keep anyway? And what about when they start eating each other? What happens when I go out of town? Are there mantid sitters?
I don't know. I have a lot of questions.
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