Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mothering Mantises

Hey ya'll 

I am afraid that I have neglected to report a rather unfortunate turn of events and some pretty sad news, but with the positive hype that was surrounding the celebrations of my birthday finally coming to an end, I do not see any reason to withhold this any further. Dian-Dian, our female praying mantis (Hierodula membranacea) had a fall whilst molting and while this may not sound like a very big deal (insects are generally more than well equipped to deal with falls), such an accident during the molting process generally ends in death. An insect, you see, is covered by a tough, water-proof like material called chitin which composes the insect's exoskeleton.

Throughout its brief life, it is the exoskeleton that gives many insects their unique appearance and protects them from the elements and predators. Generally speaking, this exoskeleton is really pretty tough and durable but there are moments during the insect's life when it needs to be shed in order to make way for a new and stronger one that had been growing underneath. When the insect sheds its old exoskeleton, the new layer underneath is still quite soft and takes quite some time to harden. This is to enable it to expand so that the insect can, too, increase with size. Now an insect with a soft exoskeleton is really nothing more than a collection of gooey fluids trapped inside a very thin bag of membranes and tissues so imagine, if you may, what might happen if you were to drop such an object from a great height upon a hard and unrelenting surface! The results are best left to your imagination but should the insect even survive the impact of the initial fall, it is often so deformed as a result that it finds itself quite crippled when the exoskeleton eventually hardens up.

Dian Dian our Giant Asian Mantis (Hierodula membranacea) after her little accident. Note the awkward posture of her body, dysfunctional leg on the left side, and strangely positioned claws which cause them to overlap thus making it difficult for her to catch her own food. 
Fortunately for Dian-Dian, the fall took place only within a short distance and it just so happened that I was there to notice it and rescue her. Unfortunately, though she did not suffer any fatal injuries, the accident had left her quite deformed with one dysfunctional leg and a rather awkward and twisted posture that positioned her claws in such a way that made it pretty much impossible for her to capture prey on her own. Needless to say I was quite saddened and disappointed by this as I had put in much effort into raising her and was hoping to breed her with our earlier mantis (currently residing in Sabah). My spirits were lifted, however, when she recently began accepting hand-fed food and demonstrated that she could easily feed herself if the worms were offered within the grasp of her claws. I'm hoping as such that these deformities can be corrected with the following molt (insects can regrow lost limbs with each molt so why not a posture problem?) and I'm feeding her with worms that have been themselves fed with nutritious vegetables and supplementing this with calcium powder made from ground cuttlefish bones (the powder is generally for my amphibians).

Feeder Worms: Today on the menu Carrots!!!
Cocaine for bugs!!! NAH! I'm JUST KIDDING!!! It's ground cuttlefish bones that I use as a calcium supplement for my newts.  
Anyways I think things are definitely looking up for now so please stay tuned for updates and wish me all the best in this undertaking!!!


No comments: