Robert U. Montgomery

Bugged in Walmart

As I pushed my metal cart into the checkout lane at Walmart, a large, green praying mantis landed on the frame.

Startled, but never wanting to pass up the chance to have a little fun, I pointed out the insect to the cashier and said, "I'm not paying for that."

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Chaos briefly ensued, as she, an adjacent employee, and several customers saw what I was pointing to. Admittedly, this was one impressive predatory insect, and for people who are fearful of creepy crawlies, I could understand their response.

Quickly I attempted to restore peace, assuring them that they had nothing to fear and promising to take the praying mantis outside with me. Fortunately, it was a cooperative sort and rode peacefully out the door with me.

Enroute, I pointed out the insect to my favorite friendly greeter, whom I suspect once was a member of the band ZZ Top. He laughed and said, "Oh, I saw that flying around in here and wondered what was going to happen."

Actually, praying mantises are around all summer and well into fall. But we seem to notice them mostly during the latter. Why is that?

"Right now, they're looking for mates," a mantis expert at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History told
National Geographic. He added that they've spent all summer hunting, eating, and growing, repeatedly shedding their exoskeletons, as they reach lengths up to 6 inches.

In other words, they're on the move now because of a desire for food and sex. That's a potentially lethal combination if you're a male praying mantis. Yes, sometimes females bite off the heads and eat the body parts of males that they mate with. But not always.
“First of all, not all praying mantis species cannibalize their mates,” explained the expert. “Maybe if the female is starving or if the male irritates her, she might engage in that behavior. But they don’t always do it.”
I wonder what a male praying mantis does to irritate a female.