Mantis update update

Hoppy gets his first taste of freedom. He likes it. He likes it a lot.

Since posting the splendid news about Brownie’s new wings, one of the other mantises, Gimpy, has shuffled off his mortal coil and joined the choir invisible. Gimpy, the reader will guess, had a bum leg for the last month or so of his life and frankly I’m surprised he made it as far as he did. But his death sort of pressed the issue of a mantis’s normal life span and what we, as responsible pet owners, should do now.

Brownie and Hoppy both seemed still sturdy and curious about life, so we have decided to roll the dice and hope that one is a male and the other a female, and have let them go forth into the garden, just like Adam and Eve (except in Santa Monica) to live out the rest of their lives in natural suburban splendor.

We had a little ceremony where we took the lids off their Critter-Keepers and let them roam around on the patio table. Sam and Kit called out words of encouragement like “Make a nice big egg sac, and bring back hundreds of baby mantises in the Spring!” and “I love you Hoppy! Have a good life!” I felt like singing “Born Free” but it probably would have made everyone cry. We wanted to take pictures but the camera battery was dead after a long wedding reception the day yesterday (the wedding was for some humans we know, not mantises).

After delivering our exhortations to Brownie and Hoppy on what we hope to be their wedding day, we carried them over into the bushes and put them well into the brush to keep them from getting eaten by birds. Brownie didn’t seem too keen to go, but then a moth fluttered by and, no joke, she charged off after it like a cheetah gunning for an antelope.

Take care, Brownie! Go get ’em, Hoppy!

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Mantis update

We named this mantis Brownie because he suddenly turned brown one day. The change was so sudden that we all assumed he was about to roll over and croak. We were wrong! Brownie has not only stayed alive, he’s gotten bigger! He is now the largest of all the mantises we have and, what’s more, he’s suddenly grown wings! Show us your wings, Brownie!

Here you can not only see his wings, you can see him lick what I can only imagine are cricket-guts off his foot.  Cleanliness is next to insect-like behavior, Brownie!

There’s a slightly better shot of his wings. It’s hard to hold a mantis with one hand and take a picture with the other. Anyway, he’s gotten huge, as you can see, and he’s ready to take on flying insects! No place is safe from this winged menace!

Heck of a job, Brownie!
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By popular demand, here are some pictures of Sam’s millipede.

I don’t know the creature’s sex, that is, I don’t know if it’s a “Millie” or a “Petey,” so I’ve just been calling it “the millipede.”

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Wildlife imitates art

In chapter one of Feeder Birds, squirrels invade the feeder. Cardinal dismisses them as “rats with fuzzy tails.”  Later, he drowns one and the other birds attack it and pluck out its eyes.

Imagine my surprise when I looked out my window the other day to find this:

The feeder drawn in the panels above has moved three thousand miles, only to be invaded by actual rats.  And while Cardinal is not here to sort them out, the House Finches who frequent the feeder certainly had a thing or two to say about them.

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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

pestilence update

Now that House Finches are coming to my bird feeder, I find the enormous, capybara-like squirrel who comes and sits in the middle of the seed to feed less cute. Especially when I can hear the finches yelling at him to get out.

Today I went out and, instead of merely shooing him away, I snuck up on him, then waved my arms and made a big noise. Well, he exploded out of the feeder, then charged halfway up a tree. But then he stopped, turned and started barking at me. It sounded like an apoplectic Donald Duck. It so amused me that I stood there for a good ten minutes trying to replicate the sound myself, and the two of us stood in my yard, carrying on what must have been an obscene conversation in Squirrel.
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pestilence update

1. Haven’t seen silverfish in the screening room recently, but it’s usually pretty dark in there.

2. Hung up a bird feeder in my garden a couple of weeks ago, but no birds have shown up. Instead, there is a squirrel so huge it looks like a capybara wearing a fake tail that paws through the birdseed every afternoon around noon. He’s so regular it’s like he’s on a time clock. I can see him hanging out, chatting with his squirrel friends, and then suddenly saying “Oh shit, it’s noon, I’m due over at the Alcott joint.”

3. Hung up a tiny hummingbird feeder, and immediately three hummingbirds started fighting over it. The thing empties out in about three days.

Roy Scheider in Beaks: “We’re gonna need a bigger feeder.”

4. Usual assortment of spiders. Magic Schoolbus says that you’re never more than three feet away from a spider.

UPDATE: Two sparrows attacking the birdseed this afternoon. Birds eating birdseed! And, hummingbird feeder now emptying in less than a day. Hummingbirds too fast to see.
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