Grady Lee is my animal-loving, critter-catching little guy. Inside or outside to play: Hands down outside. Playing with toys or playing with dirt? Obviously dirt.
Back in June, he received a Praying Mantis Pagoda as a birthday gift. It contained a mail-in card to receive eggs and guaranteed that in three to six weeks over a 100 praying mantises would hatch. Lovely. Over 100 of these critters hatching in my house. And yes, it had to be in my house because the temperatures outside were too hot. And no, I don't have a science/nature/animal/critter room in my house, so the logical place was smack center on the dining room table. (Now I know why you refused my earlier dinner invitation!)
When a small box arrived in our mail in late June, my nature nut was over the moon with excitement. "It's time to watch the eggs hatch! I can't wait to see them and touch them!" Grady Lee knew it would take a few weeks before anything would happen, but every morning when he came down the stairs, his first priority was checking on the eggs.
In mid-July I was out running errands on a Saturday morning. As I was checking out at Target, my phone rang and I heard a frantic and excited Grady Lee shouting, "MOM! They are hatching! They are coming out and you need to come home fast so you can see them! My baby praying mantises are here!"
I smiled as I listened, with the phone held several inches from my ear because the yelling was too much, and told him I'd be home soon to see all "our" babies.
The complicated part, which I didn't expect, was feeding these things. The instructions explained that it was best to let all but a few go since they have ravenous appetites and will need a lot to eat. And, since praying mantises are carnivores, leaves and dandelions from the yard wouldn't do the trick. They needed to eat bugs, or else they'd start eating each other. Yikes.
We released almost all of them in the yard and set off to Pet Smart in search of aphids or small bugs. I figured that frogs and lizards eat those things so surely the pet store would sell them. Wrong. The tiniest things they had were small crickets. I bought a few just to see if they would do the trick, but when I noticed the crickets eating the mantises I realized my mistake.
Back to the drawing board.
I called countless bait & tackle stores and other pet stores but found nothing that sold what we needed. Because the few we had kept were starting fade quickly, I told Grady Lee we should let the rest go, too. He was crushed. "I wanted to watch them get big and strong and be able to hold them, Mom."
This fiasco was in mid-July. Fast forward to last weekend. I stepped outside on the front porch to water a plant one evening and couldn't miss the sight in front of me. This giant critter was staring right at me and I couldn't call for Grady Lee to come out fast enough.
(Yes, if you're wondering, it is back in it's previous home on the center of the dinning room table. Pfsh, where else would we put it? The pagoda is on a place mat after all.)
The good news is that Verde is enormous and is able to gulp down the Pet Smart crickets. Yes, it's true: the kids and I walked out of the store with a baggie full of jumping crickets and in less than a day all 10 of them were gone. Most of you are eewwiwwwing and have the jitters right now, but it's actually pretty fascinating to watch this thing catch its prey and eat it.
I'm not sure how much longer Verde will remain with our family, because I for one am not about to make daily visits to Pet Smart for crickets. And, try as I may, I'm not always successful at catching moths and other bugs fluttering around the porch.
If I've piqued your interest enough, take a look at this video clip of Verde chowing down on a moth. My mom-in-law actually caught it and we watched Verde show down one evening while Grady Lee was in bed so I wanted to get it on camera for him.
Enjoy - bon appetit!