Stomatopod Log Entry: Rock, Scissor, (Paper), Mantis (April 10, 1998)

Contributor: Nathan Cope

Editor's Note: Here's an extremely novel method of mantis control, one that calls to mind the saying "curiosity killed the cat."

I have had considerable experience with attempting to catch Mantis and a little bit of experience with intentionally keeping them. They are absolutely amazing, no other word for them! The two that I have at the moment wouldn't be any longer than an inch (they are in a tank separate from my main tank), but they can come completely out of their holes in the rock, go 9 cm (4 in) to a piece of food and back to their hole faster than I can move my eyes to see it. I saw all this occur out of the corner of my eye and by the time I realised what was happening and flicked my eyes to look, the Mantis was back in its hole. They are literally that fast, I am not exaggerating! The hole doesn't appear to be much wider than the Mantis itself, but it can back into the hole at high speed without the slightest fumble. BTW, this dash involved moving in a straight line from a hole about 7 cm (3 in) up from the substrate in a spherical shaped rock directly to some food sitting on the substrate. Most of the journey was through the water without even touching the rock or the substrate...proving that they are definitely strong swimmers.

As far as catching them goes, well, I once had a 7 cm (3 in) shrimp in my main tank and it was killing all my crustaceans, plenty of snails and the occasional fish. I tried many methods to capture it, but I didn't have an actual mantis trap. This was a very colourful smasher type mantis. I was never able to identify it.

It started out about 25 mm (1 in) long but grew to 7 cm (3 in) over the 6 months that I had it. I tried trapping it and plugging it's hole (had a back entrance that I didn't know about, of course). I even tried shoving a bamboo skewer down its hole in an attempt to kill it, but nothing worked.

In the end, I decided to try the scissors technique. I'm not into killing things and this was the last option I was willing to try just before pulling my whole rockwork down to remove the rock that it lived in. Even then, I wasn't sure that the mantis would still be in the rock by the time I removed it. Just as an aside, one of the major reasons I was reluctant to pull the rockwork apart was because it was all cable-tied together.

Anyway, I opened the scissors around the mouth of the hole with my right hand (I'm right-handed and I wanted to be quick and accurate with this technique) and poked a bamboo skewer down the hole with the other hand. The skewer always made the mantis come running. It poked it's head out and looked around at the scissors, but wouldn't come a long way out. I kept teasing it with the skewer until eventually a 1/3 of the mantis was out of the hole. As quick as I could, I snapped the scissors shut...and totally missed the mantis.

I thought that I wouldn't have a hope now that the mantis had seen what I had in store for it, but sure enough after a bit more poking with the skewer, the mantis started to come out of the hole again. This time, I waited until the mantis was half way out and again I quickly snapped the scissors shut. This time I got the mantis just in front of the junction between the cephalothorax and the abdomen. The cephalothorax fell to the rock and didn't move, but the abdomen shot off down the hole (I never found that bit).

I felt a deep sense of remorse for having murdered this animal. I was only consoled by the fact that I would be stopping it from killing other animals in my tank that were unable to move to a safer area like they would be able to in the wild.

- Nathan Cope


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