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THE MANTIS

The maternal solicitude of the mantis guides her to choose and fix upon some well-favoured leaf or branch to attach her frothy eggcabin to ; and she so effectually renders it a dwelling of safety for her brood, that I'm sure a bird would scorn to touch such an un-savoury-looking structure.

For, five, six, and nine months, according to the time of construction, which may be from the early days of summer until the late ones of mid-winter, it stands the wear and tear of the rain, the sun and the wind before the little; tenants prepare to remove and brave the dangers of their heritage. It is as pretty a sight as there is in Nature, to watch them cast off the trammels of their cradle. A little perforation from within heralds the flitting, and soon two tiny black eyes come through, guiding a green, slender form with fairy limbs, all daintily enveloped in white gossamer apparel ; as the wee thing slowly rises

to the delicate task of divesting itself of its encumbrances, the two thread-like antennae have first to he gently and carefully withdrawn from their filmy sheaths, and in turn, the six legs and body tenderly pressed off. Not in haste, but by degrees, it is relieved of its " clo,"

which are left hanging to the orifice, as the quivering, wingless midget steps forth. !

It is no unusual sight to see twenty-five to thirty-five emerge from one cabin, and move about in a bright, quick way, as if conscious of their freedom and the glory of the sunlight. Their hum-ing propensities are straightway uppermost, and a mimic warfare begins among themselves if nothing better is at hand. Contrary to the general rule, these insects resemble their parents from birth ; they are active from tlie beginning to the end, undergoing only a trifling change, such as a larger growth and a few new skins, till the budding wings appear and develop to. perfection. „

When mature, their outer wings are so like a stiff 'green leaf, that one can hardly help mistaking them for one ; tout hidden beneath those stiff ones are a daintier pair (only unfurled for flying) in diaphpnous folds of tender green, and radiating.

tints of pearly grey, set off 'by the stronger contrast of bright orange and peacock-blue of the spots on the fore-legs. These insects are by no means as saintly as they look with extended front legs as if in (prayer. This devotional attitude earned for their kind, long years ago, the title of " Praying Mantis.''

Nothing equals their ferocity, and the flies, moths, and other insects they prey upon (for their menu is a large and varied one), soon vanish beneath their rapacious jaws. The spirit of antagonism is so largely developed in them, that two can rarely meet without defensively extending their fore-legs in hostility towards the other. The manner they assume when securing their booty is peculiarly their own ; to watch, them in ambush, protected 'by branch or leaf, then stealthily steal out upon the victim, rising, upon four legs and striking with the front ones (much, as a kitten would when sparring at a dog), is a revelation to the^uninitiated, and merits all the interest they arouse. Arid how quick they are to take

advantage of any position that provides an easy living ! In our garden were a great many white Japanese Anemones, and as a matter of course, hosts of bees, flies, moths, etc., came to the, feast of honey these flowers advertised ; first one mantis, then another and. another, furtively; crept out. from the green, and took up its post on the white, petals , as if it were a natural part of the flowers, until qiuite a number had collected, and whichever insect it was whose evil genius conducted it thither after that,, was q;uickly grabbed and devoured. The writer has kept them for months alive, but could never persuade them to eai any dead insect, no master how hungry they were ; yet t4iey never hesitated to accept any live offering brought to the sacrifice ; even though it happened to be a cousin.

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THE MANTIS New Zealand Illustrated Magazine, 1 February 1904

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