Praying Mantis

Forget the spiders, forget the snakes. The praying mantis I found in the bathroom the other day has got to be the single most terrifying creature I have encountered in Australia so far.

I thought it was a broken leaf lying on the floor and was about to pick it up when it rotated its heart shaped head towards me. Oh, the horror! What I had thought was the stem of a leaf was one of the mantis’ twiggy spriggy legs. I walked round it and its head swivelled to follow me. It was aware that I was there and it was watching me. Another insect, realising that a human was nearby, would have scuttled off into a dark corner of the room by now. It gave me the creeps.

I coaxed it into a bucket and nudged the bucket out the front door with my foot. I got the bucket right to the far end of the veranda then I kicked it over and ran like hell back to the house. The next morning the mantis was sitting by the front door like a faithful dog. It counted us out of the house with a shake of its head.

What really got to me was that it seemed so horribly intelligent. Insects are already superior to humans in many ways: they have three times as many legs, can carry a thousand times their own weight on their backs and can survive nuclear bombs. If their brains were just a little bigger they’d be good contenders to take over the world. I wondered if it was plotting something.

Somewhere deep in my memory two long disused synapses sparked: didn’t praying mantises bite off people’s heads?! Just for a moment I forgot that our praying mantis was the size of a hair pin and that I could crush it easily under the heel of my boot if I wanted to. All I had in my head was this vision of a giant carnivorous insect with slavering jaws which I couldn’t quite connect to any real experience or science lesson or wildlife documentary. It was a moment of cold panic, until I realised that I was thinking of an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the one where Xander has a crush on a beautiful new teacher who turns out to be a praying mantis type monster in human disguise.

Well, I felt a little foolish I can tell you, but also relieved. The praying mantis looked fairly revolting to me but at least it was probably harmless. And it didn’t stick around for very long; that evening when we got home from work it was gone.


10 thoughts on “Praying Mantis

  1. But they’re the good guys; they eat all the other bugs! Aside from the spiders…
    The momma mantis lays a huge egg pod from which up to a couple hundred bubba mantids hatch, so it’s doubtful yours was truly alone – unless it had eaten the others!
    Our garden’s full of them – jungle that it is – and there are always a few pottering around the house – I’m almost used to them now, though the big ones are pretty startling. They can nip but tend just to do the crazy chameleon walk along your arm. I think the animal-ness of them, as opposed to their insecness, is actually the reason I’m fairly ok about them. Other bugs – no way!

    The Buffy episode was what I was thinking of, too!

    • A couple hundred babies?! Aaagghh! I didn‘t mind the spider in the house but I had to get the mantis out. It just seemed to know too much. I see what you mean about them being more like animals than insects.

    • About the same size as a stick insect. I thought it was some kind of stick insect/leaf insect cross till someone told me it was a mantis.

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