I have returned to my Arboretum duties, and I accepted a late-season bug safari the week before Halloween, knowing with the continued warm weather, there would still be plenty of bugs to find. I knew it would be pushing it with the mantids, so I decided to collect one in advance, so I'd have one to show the kids. I set out to collect the big female that I had seen in the middle of a milkweed patch, eating a monarch butterfly.
Unfortunately, I was not able to find her again. My only other choice was a wild and wily little female Iris oratoria that I had found in the desert garden. She had resisted my attempts to pick her up, or even take pictures of her, yet she stayed on the same little scrubby desert plant.
But I persisted, and eventually I extracted her from the plant. She has adjusted well to captivity. She performed admirably for her audience of Brownie Scouts, grabbing a fly and eating it while they watched. She also laid eggs in her container.
I had intended to release her after the bug safari, but she seemed content, and was still looking bright and healthy, so I held onto her. Then one day last week, Michael brought me a mantis he had found on the ground on campus. She was huge and beautiful, and almost dead. My first thought was to feed her. Maybe a drop of honey, or at least some water. But it was too late, even for water. I wrapped her in a tissue and put her in the freezer to sleep. I would have left her outside for a bird to find, but I was afraid the ants would find her first, and I didn't want her to be eaten by ants. So I froze her.
The little Iris is still with me. Now that the nights are getting chilly, I don't want to release her just so she can wither and die. I know she will eventually, no matter what I do, but for now she is still happy.
Happy to be inside with her night-time purple eyes.
Mantids in November are rare and fleeting. I just want to enjoy this sweet little face as long as I can.