Kieran and I just returned from an icy, snowy trip to Colorado, where the temperature never climbed above freezing the entire week, and where it dropped below zero Fahrenheit a few times. It was cold, too, in California, or “cold” by California standards, anyway, while we were away. But when we returned we found that just today, Mantis religiosa nymphs had begun hatching from an ootheca we collected last fall. Last year we raised Tenodera sinensis, which hatched in April. But these mantids are born typically much earlier — we’ve even had them hatch out in January some years. They’re smaller than grains of rice when born, and are mostly head. Translucent and pale at first, they darken up as they dry out. They need to struggle to disentangle themselves from the ootheca, or egg case, which is the consistency of Styrofoam. Once they’re free, they adopt the typical upside down posture of praying mantis adults, hanging under twigs waiting for prey. I will get some fruit flies tomorrow for them to dine on. So far we have about eight nymphs.
I have a young mantis in 25 million year old Dominican amber and another on in 66 million year old Cretaceous amber.