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love Bugs

Sep 25 2016

I'm teaching life science in my middle school class this year.  I alternate between this and physical science every other year, and on the 'on' year for life science I always set up a 50 gallon terrarium and several other, small tanks for the variety of insects, crayfish, snakes and frogs the students bring in throughout the autumn months. So it was no surprise a week or two ago when we found a praying mantis on our school grounds and the kids insisted we bring him inside. Because this was a pretty special find, we kept him in a separate bug tank just for him.

several days later, a student found a female praying mantis on our soccer field.  We grabbed another container to put her in, then gave her a grasshopper in case she was hungry.  She was definitely hungry.  She took no time to decapitate the grasshopper and begin ravenously eating it.  After ten minutes, it was time to return to our classroom, and she was still enjoying her lunch.  When we got inside we decided to add the male we already had to her container and see what would happen.  

As soon as they were in the same tank, the male approached her like teenage boys approach the new girl at youth group.  The fact that she was still eating the corpse of the grasshopper like an ear of corn should have been his first clue, but the heart wants what it wants.  After she finally dropped the last couple of 'drumsticks' from her meal, they immediately started mating in their tank.  They had just met ten minutes prior; it was like spring break right in my middle school classroom.  And make no mistake, my 12 and 13 year old charges in my class were enthralled!

While we were making these scientific observations, I decided to research something I had heard but was unsure it was true.  Do female praying mantises devour the males after mating?  I learned, and informed my students, that 35% of the time the female entirely consumes the male after breeding.  But he was a guy mantis, so I'm sure he thought of it as 65% chance of her NOT sucking the very life out of him, which like totally makes it worth it, dude! 

Anyway, we waited to see what would happen, but they didn't stop their mating.  We went back to our class work, and at 2:30 dismissal, an hour and a half after meeting, the mantises were still going at it!  When I left for the day at 3:00; STILL!  It made me think of those commercials of how, if you still going after four hours get emergency help.  Should I watch them for more time and possibly take them to the vet?  No, I had to get my daughter to the dance studio for her ballet class.  I left the two love bugs alone in the classroom and I'd see how things were going the next morning.

when I arrived to work the next day, I immediately went to check on the new class couple.  It was then I concluded that our male was one of the unfortunate  35%.  There was nothing left of him except his head, a few wings and one leg.

  When the students arrived, we examined the remains.  And when  we looked at the head under a magnifying glass, I swear he was still smiling!


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