Bucky: 2007-2007

Bucky as a hatchling (top left).

The young Bucky.

The mature Bucky, clowning for the camera.

Bucky, who dedicated his entire life to teaching a California family about the life-cycle and eating habits of praying mantises, is dead.

His lifeless body was found in his Critter-Keeper early Saturday morning. Cause of death is unknown, although, as he was over four months old, foul play is not suspected.

“He” (his true sex was unknown) lived a full, healthy, insectoid life.  He was purchased as one of hundreds of mantis hatchlings contained in his egg sac, which came in a net bag.  Most of his hundreds of brothers and sisters were released into the wilds of Santa Monica’s Douglas Park, but Bucky seemed to understand from the beginning that he was destined for greater things.

He was known for his inquisitive nature, his upbeat, sparkling personality, his love of children and sunshine, and his voracious appetite. He enjoyed a good joke and cherished the hours he spent hanging upside-down. He would drop whatever he was doing in order to crawl on a hand and maintained a presence on the internet through a “blog” run by one of his owners. He was known as the cockiest, most adventurous and most handsome of mantises. Sadly, he never actually had the opportunity to mate with one of his kind and produce young.

His job title was instructor, but Bucky was a mantis who could not be constrained by labels. In his pursuit of larger truth he became an idea and an ideal, a bringer of joy to the handful of people who were blessed to encounter him.

He is survived by his brothers Gimpy, Brownie and Hoppy. In accordance with mantis tradition, his remains were devoured by crickets.

Gaily I lived as ease and nature taught,
And spent my little life without a thought,
And am amazed that Death, that tyrant grim,
Should think of me, who never thought of him.
~René Francois Regnier

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More mantises!

This is not a bug!  It’s the skin of a bug! 

As they grow, mantises shed their skin every couple of weeks!  It’s true!  And the skin left over is a cool artifact all by itself!  It’s always surprisingly whole for some reason.  We keep our dead mantis-skins in a special little container so we can look back at their growth progress and sigh and reminisce about what they were like when they were babies.  It’s just like marking your child’s growth spurts in their bedroom doorjamb.  They — they grow so fast — (sniff) —

Meanwhile, here’s the little guy who just shed his skin!  He’s feeling frisky and full of beans!  Or cricket, anyway.  Look how interested he is!  He’s ready to greet the world!  I’m going to call him Bucky.  Hey Bucky, you ready to greet the world?  Bucky, world; world, Bucky!

Uh-oh!  Bucky hears a noise!  Is it a burglar?  Is it terrorists?  No, it’s just the paper boy, Bucky!  Calm down, boy!  Bucky feels very protective toward me, I can tell.  My hand is his territory and he’s going to defend it from anything that comes his way (provided it’s an insect smaller than himself).  I’m going to call him Guard Mantis Bucky!

Bucky’s decided the coast is clear.  Look, he’s giving me the “thumbs up” sign!  He thinks he’s people!  How could you not fall in love with that face?  Bucky’s going to be a movie star!  You’re okay in my book, Bucky!

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In the manner of 6-year-old boys, Sam wants creepy-crawlies as pets. In the manner of parents of 6-year-old boys, it falls to me to take care of Sam’s creepy-crawlies. Currenty we are raising a half-dozen snails, a few dozen pillbugs and a 9″-inch Giant Black African Millipede.

And then there are the mantises.

click for larger view

warning — insect snuff within

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