Classical allusions

Just in case you were wondering what might have become of my Rubenesque models from this post, they’re still around, living happily (I’m assuming) in the azalea bushes out front – I make it a point to see if I can find them daily. The number I can spot varies; at least one is a regular resident, but at times I can spot two on one bush, then apparently a different one on another a day or so later, but it’s hard to tell for sure just how many are around. And two more younger mantises are now being found on the pampas grass nearby, which always houses a few each year.

Yesterday, I managed to capture some tonsorial rituals.


I should probably feel a bit insulted, since my model here (I believe this is a Chinese mantis, Tenodera aridifolia sinensis,) undertook its meticulous foreleg cleaning efforts immediately after I’d coaxed it to walk on my hand for the scale shot. Or perhaps this is a measure of mantis respect. My friend here is better than twice the size it was when I first found them and got the dew pics, about 4 cm in length, but still well below adult size (that’s my finger, in case it’s not clear.) Nobody has been cooperative enough to let me photograph the molting, even though I’m pretty certain it’s happened at least twice, judging from the color changes. The chances of my capturing this activity in images is slight, however; immediately after molting their chitin is still soft, leaving them very vulnerable, so they tend to perform the molt while hidden and remain so until they feel safe – the thick bushes provide plenty of opportunity for this. Still, I keep watching.

I’m pleased that I actually captured some of the facets in the eyes in the closeup pics – I can’t even speculate on how small these really are, but the head measures 4mm across the eyes. The little manipulative fingers alongside the mouth are called palps, similar in function to the pedipalps of spiders. We have lips, they have mouthfingers. Praying mantises cannot whistle, but we can’t clean between our toes with our mouths.

Well, maybe this isn’t exactly true. One of the benefits of a classical education is the connection that can be made to great works of art, such as the film gris chef d’oeuvreBig Trouble,” specifically this scene with Stanley Tucci and Sophia Vergara:

I just have to note that I ripped and uploaded this video myself after finding that the clip on YouTube had been tagged as “adult” by some seriously uptight individual. I suspect it wasn’t because of the footie stuff, but that she smacked him with a crucifix…

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