Last week while sauntering (Thoreau style) along a reforested part of Howard County, my eye was attracted to a very small tan blob attached to a small branch of a tree. It took me a few moments to realize this stiff, foamy mass was an egg sac. In fact is was a praying mantis egg sac and could contain up to 300 eggs. I tried to remember when they are created and when do they hatch. I wasn’t sure. I placed the sac in my jacket pocket planning on giving it to my grandchildren later that day (pre-lockdown). Might be fun I thought.
Sure enough we all took a walk later in the day and at one point I put my hand into my pocket and remembered my plan. The 5 year old certainly knew what a mantis was from last summer – but was fuzzy about how the two related. But she was excited and promised to take it home and watch it hatch – assuming it was still viable. Several days later my daughter say the sac and put it into a pint jar with a fine mesh lid.
The very next morning everything changed. The jar was full of mini mantises. She had put it in a jar just in the nick of time, they were streaming out of the egg sac, and just kept coming. I quickly got a call and via FaceTime got to enjoy the excitement. “What do they eat grandpa? We’ve got to feed them now.” We guessed that we needed to capture some of the bugs that were starting to swarm on the porch. It quickly turned into a neighborhood quest – plenty of babies to go around even with turning dozens lose for keeping the gardens free of more harmful pests throughout the summer.
Turned out this was a blessing for all the neighbors – a little excitement during a period of corona lockdown. Great opportunity for community and solo research without leaving one’s own backyard.