praying mantis

8.29.10 ~ Groton, Connecticut
8.29.10 ~ Sound Breeze

This morning when I woke up I told myself, okay Lazy Bones, you are not turning that computer on today until AFTER you get some work done. Since the house got a real good cleaning last weekend I decided that weeding the garden would be a good project to tackle. Problem was, it was still dark, early bird that I am. So I decided to read until the sun came up.

A couple of weeks ago we saw the movie Eat Pray Love, and I enjoyed it so much I bought the book the next day and started reading. The spiritual journeys of other people are always of great interest to me. Many critics panned the movie, but I loved the subject matter and didn’t notice all the supposed faults the critics picked out. So be it! The book is even better than the movie because Elizabeth Gilbert shares her internal thoughts more intimately than can be done on film.

The book (and the movie) is divided into three sections, the first (Eat) focuses on Pleasure and tells of her experiences in Italy. The second (Pray) focuses on Devotion and tells about her time in an ashram in India, and the third (Love) focuses on Balance, and how she found it in Indonesia. This morning I finished the Pray portion and took some time to meditate on what she had learned about spiritual seeking. Then a phone call from Auntie woke Tim up and the day was beginning, so I headed out to the garden.

Tim left to do a couple of errands (coffee, newspaper, organic free-range farm-fresh eggs) and I started weeding with gusto and great determination. The moon was still out in the blue sky – welcome company. I filled one laundry basket with weeds and had another half filled when I happened to notice the huge insect in the picture above. He was six inches long!!! Not wanting to disturb him, and frankly, quite awe-struck, I stopped weeding and then realized it was a praying mantis! The synchronicity of a creature with this particular name appearing in my garden when I was immersed in thoughts about prayer filled me with wonder.

Tim came home to find his over-excited, hot, sweaty, filthy wife jumping up and down on the porch urging him to get the camera, get the camera. It was all I could do to point with my blistered finger at the cause of all this delirious joy! He went inside and got the camera and tried to hand it to me but I said my hands were too dirty he was going to have to get this picture for me! And I think he did a fantastic job capturing the well camouflaged creature with our undependable little camera!

Earlier this summer while sitting outside with Dad on his porch, I spotted what looked to me like a tiny green inch worm with legs. Next time Beverly passed by I showed it to her and she said it was a baby praying mantis! It was so tiny the pictures didn’t come out…

2006 ~ Woodbridge, Virginia

And back in 2006 we found a praying mantis (pictured above) on the side of Dan & Fran’s house in Virginia.

There are about 2,000 species of these carnivores world-wide! They eat insects and spiders so I hope ours will be staying in the garden – perhaps I should leave a few weeds for him to hide in. By the time I cleared away all the tools and swept off the porch he had moved backwards down the iris leaf he was on, but he was still there. Will be checking on him every time I leave the house!

So, here I am at the computer again, after a nice long shower, of course. Step away from the computer now, Barbara, you still have laundry to do. But maybe a little Scrabble first… Starting to keep an eye on Tropical Storm Earl – it might be around here as a hurricane mid-week if it keeps to its present course… Step away…

17 thoughts on “praying mantis”

  1. Lovely post, Barbara. I like the fluidity of your reading and moving to the garden and then writing about a mantis seen while weeding. There is an entrancing and natural flow that is often present when we’re open to it. Wonderful photos as well, and the illustration of the mantis beneath a moon is exquisite.
    In light of ‘eat, pray, love,’ there is a singular characteristic of the praying mantis that bears mentioning: the female of many mantis species devours the male during intercourse. She begins with the head while they are still attached, and his body effectively nourishes the female’s eggs. An extraordinary creature…it’s slow, meticulous movements (outside of mating!) are a joy to watch.

    1. Thank you, Julian! I love the illustration of the mantis and moon, too – one can find all sorts of art work in the public domain at Wikimedia Commons.
      Well, if what you say is true about this species, perhaps I’ll have to start referring to the little cannibal as a “she,” being that she probably has devoured any male in the vicinity! It was kind of neat the way she turned her head and seemed to follow Tim’s movements with her eyes. Alas, she was gone this morning, I probably destroyed too much of her habitat with my aggressive weeding…

      1. True indeed… My copy of the Insects of Europe even has a graphic illustration that leaves little to the imagination!
        About this time of the year is when I begin finding mantises in our garden, and they tend to stay true to a place. Over the course of weeks they seem to rarely drift far from their chosen space, so you could still find him/her in your garden. A couple of autumns ago, one mantis came to feel right at home on our porch, among the flowers, herbs, shoes and boots. As the nights grew colder I tried watching it to see where it would go. It never retreated further than the doorframe, and after the first hard frost I found it frozen to death despite the glove that I’d placed loosely over it. Whatever it was meant to achieve had obviously been completed, but I find that its death still haunts me after a whole season of intimacy.

        1. Nature can seem brutal at times, but I guess that is our take on things… Some people keep praying mantises as pets! But apparently they only live for a year and I think losing it after such a short time would be so sad, in light of the experience you had losing your little neighbor. When ours moved its head it seemed more like a curious animal than an insect! It’s easy to see how one could grow fond of them and you’re fortunate to have so many in your area! This was the first one I can ever remember encountering in Connecticut. I wonder if it has anything to do with global warming. We’re seeing birds, too, that normally have a more southerly range. Will keep checking the garden…

  2. It’s beautifully sunny at the moment, despite horrible weather we’ve had most of the day but I am happy to be at the computer because I’m reading posts that I’m enjoying – yours included.

    I’ve only ever seen a Praying Mantis in a Zoo, I think. Quite spectacular insects, I suspect I would probably run from fright if I suddenly saw one in the garden! (Also, probably a bit unlikely in Wales, UK!) That said, I used to be terrified of dragonflies and we’ve a lot in our garden and I am no longer scared of them.


    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed my post, Val! I just learned that the European Praying Mantis is the State Insect of Connecticut! And it’s not native to our state. How strange… Not sure if that was the species of this one.
      I love dragonflies – did you know the word for them in Norwegian means eye-poker? Makes me wonder if they have a ferocious personality over there on your side of the Atlantic! 🙂 When I was little my parents found a walking stick (insect) in the woods near our house, another amazing creature!
      Tropical Storm Earl is now Hurricane Earl. Possibly coming here Thursday night or Friday. Hope it changes course…

      1. Haven’t noticed any ferociousness (is that a word?) in our dragonflies! I gather that they can nip a bit but mostly here they just happily fly over the pond and zoom around the garden! (Though that said, currently they are finding mates and doing what they do…)

        1. Ah, isn’t it wonderful when love is in the air! When we went to a local arboretum one evening in July to see a Shakespeare play under the stars, I kept watching the bats and dragonflies flitting about. They were keeping the mosquito population well under control. (I missed looking at some of the play, but heard the dialog so that was okay…) The dragonflies came closer to the people than the bats did, skimming right over their heads, presumably getting mouthfuls of mosquitoes!

  3. Insects in the garden – wonderful topic for inspiration!! Recently I sat working on my laptop beside a praying mantis. I swear he/she watched me with as much fascination as I watched him. This was a fully mature and large-eyed species so it was easy to see his expression and slight head movements. I felt honored to sit beside him. Val’s comment reminded me that yesterday I could have sworn a hummingbird was stuck in one of my low shrubs because of the buzzing racket in the leaves. I couldn’t find it, though my head was only a foot away. Suddenly, two mating dragonflies, perfectly camoflaged, flew out of the bush and the humming was gone. Love amongst the shrubbery and I missed it!

    1. Wow! I would have felt honored, too, having a praying mantis share some quality time with me! Had to laugh at your dragonfly story! Every time I see mating dragonflies going through the air I have to look twice because I’m never quite sure if I saw a hummingbird or what-have-you. And then it’s, oh, it’s mating dragonflies again…
      Just found this website:
      Scrolling down to the second large picture, it looks exactly like the one in our garden. The site identified it as a Chinese Mantis and states that it is a relatively recent arrival in northern Illinois. Hmm… Ours was six inches long, but it had the same coloring, a green portion accenting the brown. Just like the mixture of dead brown leaves and living green leaves where I found it.

  4. Barbara,

    Good to read a blog of yours, I don’t know if I have missed some or you just have not been writing? It could be me, and most likely is.

    Great read, I have not had the pleasure to see or read Eat, Pray, Love, yet I do imagine the book to be more powerful. Looking forward to seeing more insight you gleam.

    Praying mantis can be a powerful totem… here is a small piece I found:
    “The Praying Mantis teaches how to still the outer mind and go within ourselves.
    Through this, we can draw upon greater power —
    physical, emotional, mental or spiritual.
    That stillness can be simple contemplation or meditation or even dreaming.

    Healers often have Praying Mantis totems — for they use
    their inner stillness to focus their healing power.

    The greatest lesson this totem teaches is patience.
    Learning to wait for the right moment before striking.”

    1. Hi, Jeff, I’m so glad you stopped by! It’s been hit or miss with me and blogs this summer, both writing them and reading them… It’s hard for me to keep to any routine.
      I forgot to mention about “Eat Pray Love” – it’s very humorous! Laugh-out-loud funny even though she was dead serious about her search. Liz Gilbert has a great sense of irony and comes up with fantastic metaphors.
      Thanks so much for the totem info – it never would have occurred to me to look up praying mantis because I think of it as an insect, not an animal totem. Meditating, powerful dreaming, healing – those have all been highlighted in my life in recent days. But “the greatest lesson this totem teaches is PATIENCE,” resonates with me. I’ve blogged about my impatience more than once, you may remember, and I still have lots to cultivate in that department. I’m grateful you shared that with me.

  5. Barbara, I loved your post; with its movement from the material to the mystic. Praying mantis – there is something special about seeing them, seeming so still till they decide to let you see them!

    1. I’m glad you loved my post, Meenakshi… Magical things keep happening when I least expect them! I’m not so sure this one decided to “let” me see it, though… It may have been fervently praying that I would stop my relentless weeding before I got to its leaf! 🙂

  6. Hi Barbara, what a gift indeed to be able to see a praying mantis and then photograph it. A blessing to you indeed, especially after your “praying” meditation… I agree with Meenakshi; the praying mantis must have allowed you to see him.

    1. Well, Kathy, I felt blessed beyond words to behold the amazing creature, but I’m sure it, on the other hand, was thanking its lucky stars it was spared a terrifying wild ride into the basket of pulled weeds! I’ve not seen it since so I imagine it reassessed the perils of continuing to live in its chosen locale and then headed for the hills!

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