(Photo from Leonard J. Kovar’s Gardening for Results)
E.T., Phone home…better yet, go home!
The Resale Evangelista
The bugs are bigger here in North Carolina—a lot bigger. Even the good bugs.
One night, heading to bed, I turned a corner and came eye-to-glassy-eye with a long, lime-green thing clinging to the door frame. Its body was delicate, the length of my pinky, thinner and straighter than a string bean, with thready legs bent like paper clips. The torso (do bugs have torsos?) narrowed to a tiny triangular head with, it seemed to me, unnaturally large eyes on either side. After my initial gasp, I decided it was a praying mantis and ignored it, passing on the far side of the short hall to my bedroom.
In the morning, the mantis was gone. I couldn’t help wondering if it was male or female, since females praying mantis (manti?) eat their males after mating. In the next few days, it turned up on a wall in the kitchen, then on a picture frame in the dining room. I hoped he/she was making its way to freedom, but I still jumped every time we met and averted my eyes as I passed.
As a kid in New Jersey, we often found a praying mantis or the similarly beneficial walking sticks on trees as we played outside. I remember catching lightning bugs, too, and putting them in a jar. I don’t do that anymore. It’s not that I mind bugs. I just prefer they stay out of sight and not require intervention on my part.
The praying mantis, according to Leonard J. Kovar’s website, Gardening for Results, is one of the top 10 bugs you want in your garden. They hunt at night, and eat all the most problematic bugs–including cockroaches. Unfortunately, they are not picky eaters (just ask the males); they also eat other beneficial bugs. They have five eyes, allowing them to spot movement from 60 feet.
Alas, this praying mantis never made it to freedom.
One cool morning, I went to close the windows in the dining room. And there, clinging to the screen—or so I thought—was the lime-green thing. Only he/she looked unnaturally crisp or stiff. Looking more closely, I saw the mantis had been ensnared in a spider’s web (so much for its vaunted eyesight). I went to get the vacuum cleaner, or maybe an empty coffee can, to dispose of the corpse. Fortunately for me (which reveals a lot about my attitude toward insects), as I touched the window frame, the mantis fell from the web and down behind the bookcase under the window.
Which put me in mind of a favorite haiku verse, translated by former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass in The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa (New York: Ecco, 1994)L
Don’t worry, spider.
I keep house
Because, of course, the Resale Evangelista is dedicated to simplifying, clarifying and creating a more artful life.