And thus has passed the era of Darwin, the Ghost Mantis (queen). Five days after dear Borus was consumed, Darwin mysteriously took ill and passed away in the night. I neglected to announce this tragic passing for grief’s sake— but really, Darwin lived a full and pregnant 10 months and was a loyal companion during some of the most glorious and destitute times in my life. RIP, comrade!

But linger not, dally less: new life has sprung up in my Mantis kingdom: two GIANT AFRICAN TWIG (Heterochaeta orientalis) mantids and four CHINESE MANTIDS (Tenodera sinensis). Also, for the first time ever, my two younger brothers will be adopting a chinese mantis each.


They are youthful and lively as nymphs usually are, and are eagerly (rapidly) consuming fruit flies (drosophila hydei). As both of these species are quite large (usually between 4 and 6 inches) (as opposed to Darwin, who was about 2.5 inches as an adult), their growth (and appetites) should remain quite vigorous. The African Twigs are both rather easily perturbed, and pose their scare display (like ‘VERY EXCITED’ mantis above in photo) whenever a human walks by. Sometimes I narrate them… “FEAR ME…. I AM A GIANT TWIG.” (to the tune of Beethoven’s 5th)

However, in a fitting burst of idiocy, I ordered the mantids right before we (my family) are jetting off to Amsterdam for a week. Family vacation, regrouping, art-touring, coffee-shop-living, etc. So a quick shout out to friend, mantis-caretaker, and programmer, Hunter. THANKS BUD.

Welcome to the new crew!

Eggs! Eggs! Unfortunately, Eggs.

Sometime during last night, Darwin laid her first oothecae, which is Praying Mantis for “egg sack.” It’s about three and a half inches long, pastel green, and a few millimeters thick. Although you can’t see each individual egg, there are ripples on the surface of the ootheca that indicate where some of the ~three dozen eggs are located.

So this is an interesting occurrence. Darwin is unfertilized; as in, she has not mated with a male of the same specie. Yet, she clearly just laid eggs, and is likely poised to do so again. Since Darwin never mated, common knowledge might find this event slightly preposterous. After all, a zebra or a pigeon or a human female certainly cannot reproduce without a mate.

It appears that Darwin has conducted parthenogenesis, which derives its roots from the greek parthenos, meaning ”virgin”, and genesis-birth,” is a form of self-fertilization. Without any genetic input from a mate, Darwin has laid eggs that will eventually hatch as almost exact identical copies of herself. However, these offspring will be sterile, and will be exclusively female. In nature, parthenogenesis is a remarkable technique for quickly colonizing an area, bypassing the complications of sexual reproduction. Mantids in the wild can thus survive in areas of low population density where other animal species might not.

However, there is the issue of having absolutely no genetic variation among a population. If some exogenous factor emerges within a habitat— a disease, or a decrease in temperature, or a volcanic eruption or other natural disaster— since there is no variation at all within the population, the entire colony is more likely to collapse than evolve.

I wanted Uroborus to reach adulthood before Darwin conducted parthenogenesis. Borus is a male Ghost mantis with a brown coloration and an expectedly different genetic makeup. However, Borus only recently had his 6th molt, which leaves him one short of adulthood (wing buds have formed, so within a month, he will molt into adulthood).  Hopefully, Darwin will still be receptive to Borus, though I’m not sure if sexual reproduction is possible at this point after parthenogenesis has taken place.

All this being said, Darwin is a captive mantis, as will be her progeny, and is unlikely to be exposed to a  selecting force such as widespread disease, drought or predation. So it’s really not a big deal, and I look forward to more pastel green oothecae appearing over the next few months.

Here’s a few pictures of the egg sack and of Borus molting.

On Virtual Communities and Writing

I have so enjoyed keeping this blog. What started as a collection of random thoughts has come to be an exploration “On Topic“— that is, I have adopted a tactic of topic elucidation. As you may have noticed, there’s really no rhyme or reason to what I write, when and why. I arbitrarily select topics that strike me in some way as important or unaddressed or societally ignored, and I comment. Petty and heavy alike, good thoughts are meant to be shared, I think.

I have been literarily negligent lately. My apologies to those of you who depend on the regularity of my posts, but even during this recent spring break, I perpetually have a surplus of started projects and a dearth of time(ly motivation). In all likelihood, I will probably resume regular writing during the summer, as the last weeks of school will require quite enough essaying.

However, I am excited by a new and potential use for Mantis&Me. As I outlined recently in my updated “About” section, I wish to propone the idea of virtual community writing. The Internet gives each of us an instant podium, and I would like to invite and challenge each of you to step up and speak.

I challenge you all to choose a topic about which you are inspired, and, through writing, change my perspective on it in some way. Write a thoughtspot, attacking or disproving or suggesting or commenting on any aspect of your chosen topic—  with the goal of merely suggesting an interpretation of convention.

I will regularly feature guest posters (already three people have sent me drafts), and if you’re interested in contributing to Mantis&Me, please email me at acantrell (at) wesleyan (dot) edu.

* * *  also, notice that is currently inactive- I am in the process of redesigning the blog, so for the time being, find Mantis&Me at * * *

Now for some pictures of Darwin and Uroborus (crazy right?)