Sunday, June 29, 2008

Grishnak Sheds His Exoskeleton!

Insects such as praying mantises have exoskeletons, which is basically an outer shell, made up of a material called chitin. And if I understand things correctly, mantises shed their exoskeletons 5-6 times in the course of their lifetime.

But I had no idea how much larger the mantis would be simply upon exiting the exoskeleton -- it was almost as if the mantis had been squeezed inside it, popped out, and was sort of balloon like for awhile until the new shell hardened.

This next picture is upside down, through the jar, but it was really interesting to see the mantis and exoskeleton next to each other.

The mantis seemed to be a lighter color.

And here is the exoskeleton.


This green container is what came with the original Worlds Alive Mantis Kit; it's nice, has clear plastic on two sides, and the other two sides have cloth that breathe -- then there's carrying handles.

So in my case the egg case had been dormant for so long, I thought it was a dud -- so they sent another -- and a day or two after that, the original egg case hatched. So I actually have a second time around to work with.

Originally I just attached the egg case to a stick, and set it on the bottom surface of the habitat, but I read that sometimes initially the mantis nymphs hang upside down from the egg case initially, so this time I wanted to "elevate" the egg case.

I had found a really simple kit for making a tiny wooden model fort, and already had this in the habit as an act of silliness -- so I found a way to attach the egg case to the "flag".

This is a close-up of the egg case. It's a kind of foamy, styrofoam material. I had to overcome the heebie jeebies in order to even hold it, with memories of the movie Aliens buried in my subconscious. Aliens, the original 1986 version -- was the only movie that actually ever scared the bajoojy out of me. So somewhere inside I have a squiggly, squirmy reaction to insects -- not when I look at them -- but at the prospect of actually touching them.

But it wasn't so bad; so a bread tie seemed to work to fasten the egg case -- then I taped it to the "flag" -- which could just as easily be a stick or something. Not sure if the egg case really needs to be elevated, but it might be fun if/when this second egg case hatches, to give the manti something to crawl down on for a photo opportunity.

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