Saturday, March 3, 2012

Masticating Mantises

Hey ya'll 

While hand feeding our mantises can get rather messy at times, some of the benefits of doing it is that the insects get conditioned to our presence as time goes by. Before long, it is possible that they will be eating right out of our hands. Literally! Unlike more ephemeral insects like butterflies or moths, creepy crawlies like mantises (specifically the giant asian mantis hierodula sp.) are rather long lived (some of mine have survived for over a year!) and therefore (I think) begin to develop individual specific characteristics/behavioral traits over time. For instance, mantises which have been raised through hand-feeding grow to be more picky about their foods. They learn over time to reject certain kinds of foods or the same foods that have not been prepared in the same way. 

Our current female for instance used to eat worms that were simply cut open for her. As time went by however, I started noticing that many of the worms intestinal tracts were filled with copious amounts of what I assume is worm poo. As such, I began de-gutting them before feeding them to her (it's really quite easy, after snipping off the worm head, I use a pair of clippers to hold onto the exposed end of worm intestinal tract sticking out and give it a good pull. It usually comes out in one piece. Usually). Over time, Dian Dian began to learn the difference between these de-gutted worms and the non-gutted ones. If I were to offer her two worms at the same time, one gutted and one not, she would experimentally lick at the exposed ends of both worms. The result was that 99% of the time she would go for the one that had been gutted. Indeed the result seemed to be that she began refusing un-gutted worms altogether. Should she be eating one and discover, upon chewing into the center that the worm had not been gutted, she would flail her claws wildly and flick the offending food object as far away from her as possible and (as I imagine it) stare at me reproachfully for another one. Feeding her, as such, has become quite an occasion for me and although I would not go so far as to attribute an insect with human emotion, I suppose I can say with some certainty that they do seem to possess personal characteristics and behavioral traits. 

This is a video of our daily morning feeding sessions. As you can see from the start of the video, she is quite capable of eating two of those worms at a time, although the first worm should be about almost finished before I bring the second one over. Her appetite varies on a day to day basis but she typically eats anywhere between two or three of these and they must be cut, de-gutted and brought to her mouth with a pair of tweezers before she will consent to feeding upon it. She almost never catches her own food anymore these days. 


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