Final Molt!

Darwin experienced a spectacular final molt today around 3pm. She hadn’t eaten for a few days, climbed to a suitable position, and sat; I was thus expecting a molt and kept the humidity and temperature relatively high- and voila, the dragon queen emerged from her bodily cocoon to reveal two sets of fragile, dewey wings. I’ll let pictures do the rest of the talking.

This is how I found her earlier today:

Welcome to adulthood!

Arachne’s Final Molt: Wings!

Exciting news in the life of Arachne the Indian Flower Mantis. On January 1, 2012, Arachne shed his skin in a final molt, nearly doubling in size and revealing four delicate wings. Post-molt, mantis wings are tightly compacted and must be flushed with fluids from the body in order to unfurl. This is evidently a risk-laden process. During the many hours after the molt (and continuing for 3 days after the fact), Arachne’s wings dripped body fluids but refused to fully unfurl. The tips of both outer shell wings are crumpled, and as an additional malfunction, Arachne’s right raptorial limb appears to have almost broken during the molt. It now is slightly incapacitated and is crusted over on its right coxa.

The reason for difficulty molting may be due to low humidity levels, cold air temperature, or interruption during the procedure. Although I attempted to control for humidity and sprayed the container frequently in anticipation of a molt, the air temperature may have caused the deformities. Mantises are surprisingly resilient, however, and I would not be surprised if the wings continue to unfurl over time.

I expect that Darwin will molt (perhaps also revealing wings) in the next week or two- another mantis post coming soon!



Mantis: a Memoir

*   *   *   *   *   *

He handed me a flashlight. It was one of those oversized yellow things with the enormous battery that allegedly lasts for 5000 hours but is unfailingly dead as soon as you really need it. He had taken the battery, electronics, and light bulb out, so as to create a little compartment inside.

“I didn’t have any other containers, so I had to improvise,” he said.

I tried to unscrew the top of the flashlight. My adolescent fingers strained eagerly.

“Let me help you with that,” he smiled. He took the flashlight in his powerful hands and loosened it before handing it back to me.

“Go on, look inside.”

I twisted the cap off and let it fall to the floor of my garage. I peered inside. Last time, it was a meadow vole.  A few months ago, it was a baby snapping turtle. In the past he had brought home garter snakes, baby chipmunks, injured birds, and small large-mouthed bass that he had caught in local ponds. What next?

A triangular head swiveled almost 180 degrees to stare me in the face. Two long antennae trembled furiously, searching the air for any sign of threat. Four spindly legs stretched out, clinging to the sheer yellow plastic, and two more were held upright, coiled against its abdomen. It stared at me, swaying eerily, meeting my starry-eyes with its unblinking, alien stare.

I looked up at my dad, unaware that this four-inch insect would become a central and omnipotent figure in my young life.

*   *   *   *   *   *

My dad gave me my first mantis when I was 13. He was driving down some rural road in Western Massachusetts when something hit his windshield. He stopped the car, went to inspect, and wound up catching the mantis (unharmed) in a flashlight container. We named her Preya the Chinese Mantis. I wrote this memoir for my Sociology class earlier this year. These were just the first few paragraphs– if you’re interested in reading more, feel free to email me at acantrell (at) wesleyan (dot) edu and I’d be happy to send it to you.

*   *   *   *   *   *

To Be, or [What] To Be?


This is a terrifying phrase. It’s the one we laugh about as youngsters. We say fireman or doctor or pilot and dance around and forget about it until we’re almost 20 and need to… decide. What do be? What to do with my life? Where to start?!

I’m lucky. I am a rather (but not very) affluent, middle-class white male with an excellent high school education and an opportunity to study at an elite university. I am good at many things, but mostly because opportunities have been provided for me. Piano lessons, running shoes, endless familial encouragement- these things have come together to give me enormous privilege. I know it. The question is then, what should I do with this privelidge?

My goal in life, which I’ve known since I was very young, is to do the greatest good for the greatest number. This is a goal that is completed differently for each individual because we all have different strengths that allow us to contribute in vastly different (and important ways). For example, I do not know how to fly a plane, but someone who has been trained to be a pilot can contribute hugely to the world by transporting thousands of people across continents safely. I do not know nearly enough to become a doctor, but doctors contribute hugely to the world by helping thousands of individual people to retain their health and live a healthy life. How can I, personally, best contribute to the world in which I live?

For a long time, I wanted to be a doctor. Simply, (arguably, of course) it is the most direct way to help a lot of people. I have read books, books, books, about being a doctor, shadowed physicians, taken (intro) Biology, Chemistry, and Physics (3/5 of the Pre-med course load at Wesleyan) and dedicated an enormous effort to determining whether this track is correct for me.

It’s not. My skills wax creative; I am not good enough at the brunt learning that doctors must undergo. Or maybe I am capable of it (for I truly love learning), but I am harassed by too much other motivation. I am good at a certain “skills.” I am good at persuasion, inspiring people, leading, thinking creatively, digital art, music/audio manipulation, teaching/instructing, and others. I am a bit of an intense person. To circumvent a host of self-exploration and gut-spilling on the internet, I will just reveal my “plot” so-to-speak: I wish to become an entrepreneur.