Praying Mantis:

I would like to talk about the Praying Mantis because it is an insect that features heavily in my favorite book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. I like this book so much because it is about being present in your everyday environment. She spends a year or so sitting outside watching what happens around her house near Tinker Creek in Virginia USA. If she didn't take things so slow she wouldn't have noticed the exciting things going on with the Praying Mantis. Dillard bases her insect information on personal and poetic observation, but also on The Strange Life of Familiar Insects by Edwin Way Teale.

Fun Facts about the Mantis according to Annie Dillard:

  • In captivity the female mantis will mate with and devour up to seven males.
  • The female mantis eats the head of the male.
  • Mating can last for six hours
  • The mantis lays it eggs in cases made of hardened goo. When the eggs come out of the female mantis they look like tapioca pudding.
  • An egg case can contain one hundred to three hundred fifty eggs
  • Mantises are good for an organic insect repellant in your garden.
  • When the mantis is done eating it cleans its face like a cat.
  • The mantis eats other insects and also garter snakes, mice, and hummingbirds.
  • You can see the mantis egg case under stems of grass, twigs, and in bushes. Look especially close around for the distinctive brown blobs in fields.

In August and September of 2005, I walked out of Chicago, IL and continued on into Central Illinois for 180 miles. When I returned home to the city, I was looking for books to keep me in the headspace of being outside all day and I found Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Dillard's dedication to purposeful time wasting made me feel like I was still rambling across the landscape. I would like to include pictures from the walk that include an adventure with the Praying Mantis.

On the first day of the 180-mile walk, Nance Klehm, a friend and collaborator walked with us. It was late afternoon and we had made it down to the South Side of Chicago. We were tired because it was our first day and we hadn't built up a rhythm yet. We were walking along a dusty sidewalk on a busy street next to an electric fence, not exactly picturesque, but you take what you can get. All of a sudden Nance noticed a praying mantis making its way across the sidewalk. Nance was sure it was on its way to meet its doom as BBQ on the electric fence. So, she devised a rescue plan. Using a White Castle cup and her own intuitive knowledge about finding rich green space in the urban landscape, she scooped up the mantis and carried it to relative safety.

This incident brightened up our afternoon and kept us moving on till we found a place to stay for the night. So, the praying mantis is sort of my informal mascot for going outside time when I spend time outside.





Bonnie Fortune