Monday, October 02, 2006

It's a Bug-Eat-Bug World

Mr. McGee and I have begun cleaning up the garden for winter, which is both melancholy and satisfying at the same time. Melancholy I don't need to spell out, but satisfying in getting those now-messy beds cleaned up and neat, ready for planting again in the spring. One of both the most rewarding and irritating things for me about gardening is how nature won't stay in straight lines no matter what you do and tends to overgrow its boundaries. It's beautiful, but sometimes the anal-retentive part of me starts to miss order and neatness.

Yesterday we were working outside when Mr. McGee found this praying mantis sitting on the handle of our big shears. I was super-psyched because a) they eat annoying little insects like crazy and b) this means our efforts at maintaining an organic, biodiverse yard and using natural methods of pest control are paying off; mantises are not big fans of toxic lawn and garden chemicals (they die), but they themselves are among the best pest control the animal kingdom provides.

"What a beautiful bug*," I said to Mr. McGee.

"You're so weird. You're scared harmless little squash bugs are going to eat you alive, but a big predator like this with jaws and grabbing arms that might actually take a bite out of you doesn't bother you?" Mr. McGee demanded. (Well, that's the gist of what he demanded, not a direct quote.)

"That's just silly," I scoffed.

"Why is that silly?"

"Praying mantises don't eat people," I informed him. "Don't be ridiculous!"

But (as I said to Mr. McGee) this, ladies and gentlemen, is a beautiful bug. She (he? I haven't sexed a bug since 9th-grade biology) was nearly 4" long and was easily the biggest praying mantis I had ever seen. And she was lovely, all perfectly proportioned, sleek, healthy, in possession of all her limbs and and antennae. She had that endearing mantis habit of looking at you as you go by, as mantids are among the few insects that CAN turn their heads. I'd almost swear she was posing for the camera.

So welcome to the garden, you beautiful green bug-eating machine. Now I'm just waiting for the bats to move in!

*Note to anal-retentive entymologists reading, and I see you over there Uncle Pic!: I know that mantids are not technically bugs.


Scott J said...

It has been a big year for the "bug". I have not seen so many spiders, crawly thingys, in years. It maybe a bug-eat-bug world, but this year for me, it's been a squash,step,flick,stomp,spray year. Cool pic though. :-)

knight in dragonland said...

We've had several cool orb weaver spiders build their webs around the house this year. We also had a big mantis land on our screen door last night. It's been really cool for the kids – except that all the mosquitoes really limited outdoor evening activities over the summer.

Speaking of mosquitoes, a weird thing happened a couple of days ago. I was taking the kids out to their bus for school in the morning, and I did a double take at the van parked in the driveway. There were DOZENS of mosquitoes just sitting on the van. It was WEIRD. I've never seen them gather and sit like that. I usually leave bugs alone, but mosquitoes and flies are an exception. So ... I went on a squash fest, and I’m now guilty of mosquito genocide.

Mahkno said...

We have had lots of mantis's of various sorts this year.

John said...

Great Picture. The Mantis is truely a bug eating machine. Spiders also do their part and are quite numerous in most yards.