With that we shifted gears and got into birds. Like how a male American Kestrel, with mating on his mind, snatches up a juicy lizard and goes off a-courting, and how a female moth, when she is ready to mate puts off powerful pheromones (perfume) that shouts "Yoo-hoo! Here I am!" And as it is with humans -it's a fragrance that is impossible for males to ignore. We ended up with the bizarre mating habits of praying mantids.
That's Ellie Long in the photo above, looking at that tiny praying mantis we found over on her grandfather's place near Mitchell a couple of weeks ago. Ellie spotted it - of course - and after a while, I scooped it up, we both took a good look at it closely, and then I did that Disney photo. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you if the mantis is a native or an introduced species.
Praying mantids are well known for their predatory habits, and in that light they've been used for "biological control" in farming practice; from commercial to kitchen gardens, praying mantids have been the site of releases.
It makes no difference to a praying mantis what wanders by in front of it, those huge, multifaceted eyes don't miss a thing; they just reach out, grab it and eat it. Don't let that pious look of a mantid's front legs held in prayerful supplication fool you, either. If they're "praying" about anything it's for some delicious little morsel to come within striking distance of those long, barbed front legs. That's what they use to imprison their victims while they chomp them into bits. I watched one sneak up on a huge barn spider living on our weather station, grab her in those powerful legs and bite the spider almost in two.
Oh, I forgot to mention: life is not all peaches and cream for the male mantis either, his mate literally bites his head off during mating.
Unfortunately, not everyone who uses mantids for pest control is careful about where they buy their mantids. As a result, we see them imported from China and other parts of the world. Last summer, I bumped noses with the Chinese variety at my place between Sisters and Bend. While I certainly prefer natural control to chemicals, even then you have to be careful and make sure the "control" you're using doesn't come back and bite you later.
In the meantime, observe your children and encourage them to be curious; they will notice small things that hop, crawl and fly around and then they will bug you with questions. That's what "family" is all about. If you want to share with me what your children ask, please do; I love it.