Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Oothecas, Swarms and Keeping

Our last Charlotte Mason gathering at l'HaRMaS saw each guest gifted with their own praying mantis nest in a jar to bring home.  Our instructions were brief and number two warns us to check the ootheca daily from mid-May to June... if you live north of the border.
Praying Mantis egg sack, the ootheca.

Leslie Laurio, our dear Friend of l'HaRMaS and Ambleside Online Advisory member, gives us a heads up on the migration of warm weather as it arrives in Tennessee: "I've kept my jar outside on the back porch all winter and I've been checking them every day. Miranda looked at the jar after church, and it was swarming with little baby mantises! I let them loose in various locations all over my backyard so they will hopefully spread out and not eat each other. I have the pod, and it has little dry egg casings hanging from it. It looks like each mantis had an individual little case that he broke out of. I wish I could have seen them coming out."
I put a call in to Sarah, our ootheca collector,  and asked for further advice: Keep the jar in the garage until it really warms up outside, leave them in a place where the jar will not fill up with rain water, and try to keep them two feet off the ground so the ants don’t get an easy meal.
Here’s a great idea from Laurie: “I'm at my community garden plot digging beds...hurrying home to check mine. They went from one of the worst winters on record on my balcony under a flower pot to the back of a u haul truck to my garage. Maybe it's time to share them at the community garden?”
It's still there in the shed.

Some of us, like Melanie, need the reminder to look at our safely stored jar as it is easy to be distracted with spring bringing more than insects: “Oh!  I almost forgot mine!  I have been watching a little spider egg sac on a boxwood shrub a few houses down on my street almost every day but nothing has hatched yet.”  
I am going to attempt to make it a more prolonged nature study. That cast off aquarium I picked up from the neighbors last year will make a great viewing gallery for my ootheca and will be sure to amuse the nine year old boys in my science club. I just read that you could hang raw hamburger on a string instead of also growing aphids for their food as starving mantises will eat each other not recognizing they are kin.
Swarming is the operative word; from that little Styrofoam-like nest, the size of a walnut, comes around 200 little praying mantises.  They will not hurt you and will not fly out at you as they need a few molts before they will get their wings like the adults.
The Living Page by Laurie Bestvater calls it keeping: take out your Nature Notebook, describe the nest, the hatching and all you see, draw or note what the nest looks like after the swarm has left, take a good look at the baby mantises, use your magnifying glass, make a notation in your Book of Firsts when they do hatch, do something in order to keep this incredible experience as part of what you do know.