Hatch Out!

The hardened frothy glob attached to a goldenrod stem has sat motionless in our garden since the day I found it and brought it home from the meadow back in January. No change. Nothing happening. I had nearly given up on it. And then, it happened. Hundreds of mini praying mantises emerged from the ootheca. They crowded around the opening, marched up and down the goldenrod stem, and one by one dropped from their home base and wandered into the garden. By evening, nearly all were gone.

This is the first time I’ve ever seen this phenomenon and it was pretty exciting. I hope they find the aphids that are feasting on my poppies and grow up to devour other insects in the garden. Come fall, I’d love to find an adult or two hiding among the sunflowers or laying a frothy glob of eggs for next spring.

Tips and Techniques– Don’t miss the moment! If ever there was a time to have a simple painting set up, this was it. I sat uncomfortably on the edge of a wooden raised garden bed in the noon-day sun, sketchbook and travel palette in hand. I painted as the nymphs emerged, which gave me a long time to watch them and to study the ootheca from different angles. My palette and paper dried too fast in the full sun and I found it challenging to get the right amount of water/paint ratio. Still, I have no regrets. Had I waited for a better set up or a better time of day or a better day, I would have missed it altogether.

31 Comments on “Hatch Out!

  1. Hey Jean, how wonderful. I, too, found a cocoon of what Google tells me is a Cecropia moth. I have been patiently waiting and my patience is wearing thin. According to my research, the moth should emerge sometime midday in May or June and only lives a few days only to mate and without feeding. You probably know how beautiful they are so I was hoping to get some pictures. I hope I am as fortunate as you and get to see this happen.

    • I saw a cecropia moth last year and it was stunning. I had a similar situation, with references saying that the eggs hatch in 3 to 6 months. This must have been 8 or 9 months. Give it til August. I hope you get to see it emerge!

  2. Wow! Extraordinary. Patience pays off. Your Mantis is lovely…just don’t get too close…those things have quite a pincher!

  3. Absolutely amazing! What a beautiful depiction! You were so fortunate to experience this! I too got to see this when I was a young girl. Love this page.

  4. Thank you for posting this beautiful and detailed painting. I continue to learn about painting, journaling and nature from your blog. Your story brings back memories of when I was 8 and my mother let me keep an ootheca in the house. She mistakenly thought something else was going to emerge. The story still gets shared in my family, although as we tell it thousands upon thousands of baby mantis overran our kitchen. We did our best to assist them to safety as we knew their value to our garden. They did seem to have a knack for surprise appearances on our dinner table.

    • What a great story! I I can imagine that it seemed like thousands upon thousands spilling out into your kitchen. And they are so well camouflaged, it would so hard to find them! When I found this one in January I brought it inside for a few days to paint it, but then I read that that the warm temperature might cause it to hatch so out it went. Glad this brought back fun memories.

  5. When I was in college I had a mantis as a “pet” in the dorms and I would go out every day and catch bugs for it to eat. It laid two egg cases during its life before it finally reached the end of its life cycle. I didn’t know how their eggs were fertilized and since I had the female in captivity for so long I kind of figured nothing would hatch. I threw the egg cases up on a bookshelf and forgot about them. Months later I was studying at my desk and noticed a parade of the tiniest hatchlings going across my desk. I collected them up and desperately tried to keep them alive by collecting aphids. Now decades later I still delight when I see baby mantids emerge from egg cases around our yard. These insects are such patient and formidable predators.

    • Wow– I can’t imagine trying to keep a mantis fed day after day. It is mysterious that yours managed to lay eggs without a male in captivity. You must have been so surprised to see them marching over your desk! I was struck by how they seemed to be evenly spaced on the goldenrod stem, as if in a parade. I’m not sure what percentage tends to survive the eat-or-be-eaten world of insects, but I’m sure some will make it and hopefully we’ll see more in the future.

  6. We had a lot of them around our property last year so I’m seeing lots of hatchlings this past week. They are so tiny it is always mystifying how they survive their first week or two. I guess that is why they produce so many at once; it’s a numbers game.

  7. I am taking your advice to keep waiting since the reward would be amazing. Thanks for that.
    And by the way I love this painting! The mantis is positively charming.

  8. Very cool, Jean. I found a nymph a couple of days ago in my garden. I love having them in the garden. You did a GREAT job as always. If I ever come across a frothy glob on a stem I will know what the outcome will be. Thanks so much for your teachings & delightful art. You inspire me. Happy Flag Day

  9. Wonderful, Jean! I’ve never heard of anyone doing that. I’m so glad it was successful and you were there to see it. I think your mantis is gloating! 🙂

  10. Jean. I learned so much from yourpost about praying mantis! I’d never heard of an ootheca. Now I will look for them. Sorry we won’t be able to enjoy Hog Island this summer! Would you consider doing a one day outdoor workshop in Glens Falls or Saratoga if I get enough folks to attend? I SO want to join a class of yours tho’ finances are a concern at the moment. Love having Drawn In!

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