There are all sorts of hikers. Among them are the athletic types, barely distinguishable from cross-country runners, and the social types, who stroll while enjoying hearty discussions about subjects unrelated to the surrounding nature. Then there is me, the laggard: stopping to investigate every little thing that grabs my attention, frustrating companions who prefer getting from here to there in a reasonable amount of time.
At Angle Fly last fall, I was walking with a group of trail-cutting volunteers returning from a worksite. I was falling behind as usual, tromping through a frost-killed meadow, when a glint of light in the grass caught my eye. Kneeling on the damp ground, I spotted a shiny translucent egg-shaped case with the texture of crisp breakfast cereal encircling a stem.
This was the egg case of a very popular insect: the Praying Mantis (Mantis religiosa). The Praying Mantis was brought from Europe in the 1800’s to help kill garden pests. Fortunately, the mantises have not become pests themselves as do many other alien species of plants and animals.
Praying Mantis eggs winter over in this delicate-seeming case. In the spring, nymphs emerge, resembling tiny adults without wings. They quickly grow larger until they become the familiar and storied predators of the insect world.
If you are lucky enough to find a Praying Mantis egg case, leave it where you found it. One of my painting students brought an egg case inside to draw. Before she finished, the nymphs hatched and she was faced with countless numbers of them climbing the curtains and walls throughout the house.