I let my guard down…

… and of course someone snuck in.

recently hatched egg sac ootheca of Chinese mantis Tenodera sinensis showing 'chaff'
In this case, it was the first of the mantis egg cases (oothecas) hatching. There are several in the yard, including four now that had been naturally placed there – three Chinese mantids and a Carolina. I was doing routine checks, but the last one discovered, deep under an untended thicket of mostly vines, I now realize that I don’t recall checking two days ago, and so yesterday I find it with the telltale ‘beard’ of molted exoskeletons that the new hatchlings soon discard.No sign of any hatchlings though, so I figure it had occurred the day previously, or even overnight. I am ashamed to have missed this, bringing dishonor to my family and profession, and I poked myself in the belly with a butter knife to atone for this. But in my defense, the position was so bad on this one that I was certain I’d be doing very few extreme closeups of the hatching, and no video – just too much stuff in the way. Here’s a small example:

egg sac ootheca of Chinese mantis Tenodera sinensis lurking deep within foliage
And bear in mind, this is with crouching low and aiming into deep shadow – I only discovered it when picking up damnable pinecones before mowing. I took no photos on the day of discovery, so going out there this morning, I made it a point to search carefully for the newborns, and only managed to spot two, but they do represent the first mantids of this year, so everyone take note.

newborn Chinese mantis Tenodera sinensis, first for 2021, near ootheca
Since oothecas typically produce dozens to hundreds of mantids (each bit of chaff in the beard represents one emergence,) they made themselves scarce pretty thoroughly, but the foliage is thick enough that this is no surprise. It does slow me down from the project of clearing out some of that unwanted undergrowth, though. And it’s going to make me do more frequent checks of the other egg sacs – I’m wasting too much time on the computer right now…

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