Late last summer and into fall, the children and I enjoyed observing at least one huge Chinese mantis that hung out in our yard for a while. I know that one we saw was a female, because we discovered that the gender can be determined from the number of segments counted on an adult's abdomen -- eight for male, six for female. Also, once when we saw her, her abdomen was swollen, which we learned was probably because she was preparing to lay oothecae.
Later, we discovered an ootheca and thought that she must have laid it. I thought I'd eventually bring it in so we could observe it, but then I read that one should be careful not to keep it in too warm/dry a place, and that it's maybe best to just keep it in a jar in a shed or some other unheated building, and I didn't know exactly where I'd put it and whether we'd be able to observe it very well anyway in our shed through the winter. While I delayed in indecision, winter set in harder than usual with a big snow that was on the ground for some time.
The ootheca had been attached to some taller grass right next to our fence, so it wasn't far off the ground and was completely buried in the snow for a while. At some point in the winter I thought of it and wondered whether any life inside had survived what for us was a pretty nasty cold spell, or whether it was even still to be found. I went outside and was able to find it. I set it in a jar in an area of the basement and then the garage for the rest of the winter. Those places in our home are not completely unheated, but they are colder than the rest of our house in the winter.
I strung it on a thread so that it would be suspended and not just sitting on the bottom of the jar, because the emerging nymphs need to hang to dry when they emerge. I secured the thread to the lid of a small jar we'd used to observe insects before, and then put the lid on the jar, so that the ootheca was inside.
In the early spring, when I was just beginning to think that maybe the ootheca would have hatched by now if it were going to, we found another one in the asparagus patch, just lying on the ground. It may have originally been attached to an asparagus stem. I tossed it in the jar with the other one but didn't take the time to hang it up. I thought maybe I'd get to it, but I was also unsure whether either of them survived the winter anyway, so I didn't give it too much thought.
One day in April, the children called excitedly from downstairs in an emergency tone, "MOM! MOM!!!" The nymphs were emerging, from both oothecae!
The brownish balls are the oothecae. The little scribbly-looking things crawling all over each other are the mantis nymphs.
It was pretty amazing. I don't know how many there were, but there were a LOT!
Most of the mantises had left the jar by the time the above photo was taken, so you can kind of see how the oothecae looked after the hatching. Not a lot different than before except for the aforementioned "stuff" hanging from the top one.
Shifting focus, I took some other photos while we were outside. Some of them are of some plant life in our yard, which we learn about in an extremely informal way on most occasions, just by living with it throughout the year (and eating it, where applicable :) ).
|Sweet sisters. :)|
|Liberty has grown so much since then!|
|Apple blossoms and flower.|
|Asparagus -- yes, I let it grow too long, but it made a nice photo, don't you think? ;-)|
|Two cute girls with too small shirts -- oops. You can tell this was an impromptu photo shoot.|
|"This is very interesting stuff, Mom. Rather slippery."|
"Look, it makes my feet shiny! Not sure whether I like the taste or not."
This post is part of the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival hosted this week at Homeschooling Kiwi Style.