A lot of people have pets. I am no exception. I have always had pets except for when I married my husband… marrying into a family with very bad dander issues my husband and I chose not to have any for a while. Then last year I decided to get a pet, a particular pet. Most of the people who have pets have the cute and fluffy kind, not me (though I do like the cute and fluffy and traditionally would opt for those types of pets). They are beautiful, albeit in an exotic way and perhaps in some eyes cute. Though to many they are not their cup of tea. I also think they have their own cuteness. But again there are a few who don’t share my view. But there are many out there who surprisingly do share my point of view. In fact my current choice of pet is actually more popular than you might think. I currently take part in online world wide communities relating to my pets and their care that are in the 1000’s strong. From all parts of the world, sharing advice and knowledge on the care and upkeep of these beautiful pets ranging from the absolutely exotic species to the more common and hardy.
I currently have ten of them, and It all started with two oothecas, or as they are often referred to as ooths. One in each tank. A spike of warm weather and bam we had 200 or so tiny babies. If it’s not completely obvious by now an ootheca is an insect egg case. The eggs were laid in a type of foam that hardens around them to protect the eggs. As the eggs hatch the babies work their way out of the ooth.
By this point you have probably Identified the insect… yes those are praying mantises. teeny tiny baby praying mantises. Hundreds of them in fact.
Each ootheca had the potential to produce as many as 200 per ooth and I had two. I estimate (no I didn’t count them) that I may have had at least 100 or more from each hatch/ooth.
However they have a high mortality rate so the numbers quickly dropped though at first there was very easily good healthy number for quite a while. I now have ten adults left out of the most likely 200 plus that hatched.
This mantis species is Tenodera Sinensis or more commonly known as the Chinese mantis. There are over 2,400 species in the mantodea order, with a huge variety of looks and sizes. One exceptionally large and unique looking species is the Giant African Stick Mantis, also known as Cat Eye Mantis (Heterochaeta) of which I would love to own one day. Another which some what smaller yet, exceptionally pretty to look at is the Orchid Mantis (Hymenopus coronatus).
Praying mantises are predatory insects, earning the pray part of their name from the resting stance of their raptors which when tucked under their front look like they are praying. They hunt live prey which mostly consists of other insects that are smaller than themselves but have been known to take on prey either much bigger than themselves or even more surprisingly lizards and birds. There has been more than one account of one of the larger species of mantis taking on hummingbirds and lizards. I have even seen accounts of pet mantises striking the glass enclosures of much larger pets from other keepers in the hobby. Though it’s important to note that what types of feeder insects are safe to give will vary in different species. Some species in their natural habitat mostly hunt flying prey. And in captivity some of those species have been known to get sick when fed crickets.
The way mantises grow and develop from hatching to adult is like many insects. They grow in multiple stages/ sizes as nymphs until adulthood. Each stage till adult is known as a particular instar or sometimes in the mantis keeping hobby is abbreviated as L1, l2, and so on. Between each stage they molt their old exoskeleton. It can take a few minutes to an hour or so but preferably not too long so as not to harden and dry in the old exoskeleton and get stuck. Once freshly molted they are now bigger, more developed and at their new instar. Initially their new exoskeleton is soft and must harden, sometimes their colour becomes darker or more muted once hardened. The molting process and hardening up afterwards is a delicate and dangerous time for a mantis. Miss-molts are a real possibility and can be deadly. They are also very vulnerable to predators (other predatory insects and even others of their own kind),
In the above photo you can see my favorite mantis molting to pre-sub adult. At that point when the photo was taken she was mostly finished and had already started to dry and go back to her dark colour. She was just hanging from her butt from her old molt. They require hanging upside down so as to make use of gravity to get out of their old exoskeleton. failure to hang results in a miss molt. when has been deadly for some of my mantises. there are many other causes for miss molts though. They tend to from my observations break the skin on the back of the head/neck first and continue from there. The following photo shows two different exoskeletons after the molts. Both were female Chinese mantises molting to the same instar. though a week apart. The size difference fascinates me.
One of my males miss-molted to sub adult getting his raptors stuck. Luckily for him it hasn’t proved fatal but has cost him both raptors and one eye in adulthood. Bellow you can see how his raptors were hooking over his eyes instead of resting perfectly. They rubbed and damaged what was otherwise perfect eyes and he lost one in the next molt. Sometimes if they have enough molts left they can fix many things with subsequent molts such as a missing limb or damaged raptors. Unfortunately he has to be hand fed as the next molt was his last and he was unable to heal the damage.
Generally mantises go through anywhere from 6 – 10 molts. How many will vary depending on species and even sex. For some amantis species the males molt fewer times than females to get to adulthood. Some species are an exception with males and females molting the same number of times. Some larger species taken more molts than others to get to fully grown.
Other notable growth differences is that praying mantises do not hatch with wings. They start growing wing buds at pre-sub and then come adulthood they get their beautiful wings. The difference is staggering.
Those little triangles for wings that have replaced the tiny wing buds… Remember those when you see the next stage.
I am still trying to get my head around how they were so nicely tucked away. At this point they look like pale green lace. But as she hardens and her colour gets darker and darker the colour of the wings change just like her body. The top wings will gain a darker green, brown with an almost metallic/pearlescent look with a racing stripe along their edge of lime green.
You may have noted in the above paragraphs that I have a favorite. She is the female Chinese mantis molting to adult in the above pictures. Being the largest and first of this year hatches to make it to adult, as well as my first ever successful attempt to raise a mantis to adult. She is entertaining to watch and quite beautiful to look at. She earned her moniker by her impressive growth and hardiness. Although it did come at a few small costs which I wasn’t two thrilled about, such as two siblings, despite being very well fed with prey in the tank just before I was able to separate them to separate enclosures.
She has inspired me so much so that she has managed to creep into my art. I like to design fabric prints and patterns, I find the continuity of the designs quite therapeutic. A couple of months ago I wanted to do a continuous fabric print that was feminine and beautiful. Part of me was leaning towards the old liberty’s staple of pretty fabric prints, which was often floral and organic subjects. But I didn’t want to create something so obvious. I wanted a subject that caught the eye and surprised you to see on a dress or drapes. Something unique.
Then I remembered who was sitting in her tank to my left. Little old Awesome Sauce, with her lime green racing stripe wings and pinky brown big eyes. And I thought why not? She is pretty, unique, and likes to hang out on flora which you usually find on fabric.
So I began drawing on my tablet using a ornament app that automatically repeats my pen strokes in a repeat pattern.
Then I worked Awesome Sauce into the pattern.
After I was happy with Awesome Sauces presence in the pattern I exported the pattern tile to another app for clean up. The above pattern is actually multiple tiles in a seamless repeat. Can you figure out where each individual tile begins and ends? You will find the answer in the following images.
Once I had cleaned up the Line drawing tile I then opened it up in Art Rage to give it some colour. Being a fabric pattern I knew I wanted a varied colour palette. Some artwork I just do one design option as I am often more art orientated when I create those artworks. But for this art I weas designing for a fabric from the start and with those you usually have a set colour palette and variants of one or more designs with in that that all complement each other. So I knew I wanted to do more than one version of Awesome Sauces pattern. I decided to be inspired by awesome sauces colours. She has a great camouflage that complements and blends into the greens and browns of her intended habitat. To vary the look of the print i decided to also variate how much colour was added to where on the print. I make three different tile layers each time adding more colour than the last and I used the watercolour paint effect to bring colour and life to the print.
My first variation I utilized the boldness of the black and white line drawing and helped it pop by setting it over a deep green background. (If you buy this pattern variant on Zazzle the green background is customisable just like all the other versions with white backgrounds.
I really like how the green helps the black and white drawing pop in a modern and bold manor.
For my next variant I chose to make Awesome Sauce stand out from the rest of the pattern. I chose to paint her in a digitial watercolour effect to give her not just colour but some dimension.
My third variation I decided to bring the leaves forward too, so as to compliment Awesome Sauce. So filled them with colour again using the digital watercolour painting effect in Art Rage.
I think I successfully managed to create three complimentary variations of the same print. No doubt I shall add to the collection with more complimentary prints and their variations. The aim will be to have a collection of fifteen prints in total, including the variations.
Of course once I had finished the patterns I just had to order some Spoonflower samples to see it in person. Especially as it had been a while since I had ordered any new proofs for sale.
And then they arrived. And they were even more Awesome than I expected them to be….
Seeing them in person got me all excited for the possible uses of this print. Imagining all the dresses, bed linen, shower curtains and more.
And of course I had to show Awesome Sauce her awesome fabric prints! It would have been rude not to!
And now I have finished this post I think I shall go hide my credit cards, this project may end up with me spending more than I make if I am not careful. Or perhaps I shall go make a dress pattern that deserves the Awesome Sauce print.
If you would like to see how good it looks as wallpaper and fabric check out my Spoonflower shop. Alternatively It’s available at Both Red Bubble and Society 6, as a variety of customisable fabric and products at Zazzle.