A Nanaimo woman was surprised earlier this week to find what the cat dragged in – a praying mantis.
Kailey DeFehr said her cat was batting at what she thought was a leaf in the hallway of her Wellington-area home on Monday, Sept. 12, but on closer inspection, she realized the ‘leaf’ had legs.
“I realized it was a large bug that was turned over onto its back, so I asked my boyfriend to come put it outside for me and he picked it up and said, ‘Oh my God, it’s a praying mantis, I didn’t know we had these here…’” she said. “I was going to pick it up, but something made me have that ‘Ew!’ reaction. I didn’t want to touch it until I was sure. I don’t like creepy-crawlies for the most part, but when I realized what it was, I was more intrigued than grossed out.”
Tim Goater, an academic emeritus with Vancouver Island University’s biology department, said praying mantises were introduced in the Okanagan in the 1930s to control grasshopper population. He said it’s possible mantises, with their sticky egg sacs, were transported onto the Island.
“It’s probably not going to be what we also call an invasive species because the populations are so small, but I’ve certainly noticed them here, basically for almost 20 years,” Goater told the News Bulletin. “They’ve been here a while … I live in Lantzville and once every couple of summers, I find them in the raspberry canes. It’s not unusual that they’re going to be found on Vancouver Island.”
Praying mantises prey on “basically anything that they can’t fit into their mouth and basically attack,” including crickets, flies, and other insects. There have been reports of mantises feeding on prey as large as hummingbirds, but Goater said that has only been reported in the tropics.
Praying mantises are not dangerous to humans, the professor said.
“They have very spiky forelegs that they might give you a bit of a [pinch] when you pick them up, but they don’t cause any harm,” he said.
Estimated life cycle of a praying mantis is six to nine months, according to Goater, who also said males have to be careful when courting during mating season.
“He’s very likely to become a prey item … it’s called sexual cannibalism,” said the prof. “It’s got a very intriguing title, but that it is what happens. The male often, especially after he’s done his business, is eaten by the female. Other insects do it, but it’s renowned in the praying mantids.”
Should people find a praying mantis, Goater recommends leaving them alone.
DeFehr reported that the insect she found survived its interaction with the cat and she was trying to feed it fruit flies.
“He’s started to move his head. I named him Manny,” she said.