Wednesday, October 30, 2013

25. The Praying Mantis

I was in the middle of my weekly phone call with my grandmother when a praying mantis ran full-speed across the living room floor.  Startled, I actually interrupted the conversation to describe what I was seeing.  

"It looks like a rat!"  I said.  "It's the size of my hand!  No... sorry.... it's just.... you should see this bug!"  

And I wasn't even exaggerating.  It was the most substantial insect that I had ever seen.  It was larger than a lemon and clearly very heavy.  It looked like a cartoon gangster's cigar.

The praying mantis darted across the dusty floor, and vanished through the open grate.  I watched it go, amused and pleased.  

"What a cool sighting," I thought to myself.  And I assumed that that was that.

But the next part was even better.  

The praying mantis.  In Portuguese, it's a louva-a-deus (or a Praise to God)

Ten minutes later, the dogs found the mantis.  Bwino pawed at it while Piro started whining.  They ran this way and that, feinting and retreating to approach from all sides.  Instead of running away, however, the mantis stood her ground.  The insect cocked her two forearms and took an immediate offensive stance.  

The dogs worked themselves into a frenzy, and started to bark and snap at the bug.  The mantis swayed from left to right, hopping and ducking and dancing like a boxer.  With her forearms curled up in a fighting position, she looked like a little green cobra.  Then, suddenly, with her head bent down low and her front pinchers raised, she dealt one, two, three punches to the tip of Piro's nose.  The dog squealed and leapt backwards, shaking his head in shock and surprise.

The mantis hopped onto the ledge and stared down at the dogs, still swaying and waving her two little fists.  She looked more like a cobra than ever.  The dogs whined and sat on their bottoms, and the mantis hopped away into the night.  

Seni and Romao were doubled over with glee.  

"That bug just punched Piro in the nose!"  They fell over each other, laughing and waving and socking the air.  "It punched him in the nose!  Piro fought a bug and lost!"
In "cobra mode"

I, on the other hand, was impressed.  Had that mantis really just imitated a cobra?  Was that normal and documented behavior?  Or was it simply a coincidence?

Chance mimicry?

At the very least, the praying mantis had single-handedly defended himself from not one, but two attacking dogs.  It was a interesting encounter. 

The praying mantis versus Bwino and Piro.  African wildlife for the win!

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