I am not a very maternal person. Or paternal, for that matter, though few people tend to assume that I might be inclined to such feelings. Which I am not, so excellent guess. Babies are cute from a distance, but once within earshot they quickly are revealed to be squalling, sticky sacks of potatoes with few redeeming qualities apart from big eyes and endearing burbles (a noise usually made before spitting up on something, I’ve observed). Older children are more entertaining, though honestly before age six they tend to be creepy, and from age seven to ten they resemble heavily drugged adults.
I have never much enjoyed being around children, and for obvious reasons have never been particularly good with them. This paradigm as it relates to human children, however, is subverted when it comes to animals.
Okay, not like a lot. I like cats more than kittens and dogs more than puppies, but occasionally, I do find a baby animal that is completely worth making undignified noises over. Recently, I even felt the protective instinct of emotionally bonding with juvenile animals.
Long story short, after about a month of wondering if they were alive or dead, the Chinese mantises I will be using for my research finally hatched, and are adorable. They are each less than a centimeter in length, and they came out of their beige-y egg cases last Thursday sometime. Many of their nestmates were dead and dessicated on the floor of the rearing chamber, but I managed to recover about seventy live ones that hadn’t fallen prey to dehydration or the appetites of their siblings. They each got their own little plastic box with their own little stick to sit on, and I placed a single fruit fly in each of their enclosures.
Within half an hour, most of them had caught their fly and were happily consuming their first prey! (Assuming, of course, that they had not already consumed members of their kin). I even watched one of the little tan-green darlings reach out and snag the unwary fly, which had wandered too close to the grasp of its claws. It proceeded to wrestle the squirming fly into submission and bit it on the neck. Later, I found the fly absent but for a disembodied scarlet eye. Aww.
Once they’re mature, the mantises will be about three inches in length and bloody gigantic, for reference. In the meantime, though, I’ll just treasure the days we have together when they will be slightly less monstrous.
[sigh] They grow up so fast.
And then, uh, I’ll actually be dissecting them for scientific purposes. But, at least I don’t have to cut the heads off of fetal mice with scissors like a friend of mine does. Isn’t neuroscience fun?