Christmas – and its Japanese version which I cynically call “Fakemas” – has come and gone. I was able to carry out one tradition I insist on following, the making of a Christmas pudding (not a “pure” version, as getting the mixed peel here is virtually impossible) for my workmates. (I have to make it at work, as some people at home don’t agree with the amount of gas used to boil the pudding for two hours)
Recently I cleared out our chayote vines, and found this.
In case you don’t recognise this, it is the egg case, or ootheca, of a praying mantis. Apparently each species of praying mantis produces a different kind of ootheca, and some searching on the Internet suggests that this one – the brown tinge is an important factor – belongs to a Japanese giant mantis (Tenodera aridifolia), known locally as o-kamakiri (大蟷螂 or 大螳螂). As the name suggests, it is the largest mantis species found in Japan. It is also extant in China, Taiwan, the Korean peninsula and parts of South East Asia.
Around April, around 200 mantid nymphs will (fingers crossed) emerge. Most of these nymphs will be eaten before they reach maturity (cannibalism is rife among mantids) and maybe only two or three from each clutch will live to mate (and we all know what happens to the male…)
I’m keeping the eggs in a container outside, partially to keep them at natural temperatures so they don’t hatch prematurely – in a season largely devoid of prey – and partially to avoid the wrath of certain people should 200 or so mantises make a sudden appearance.
Identifying mantis species is an art into itself, and I hope to remember some of the methods by next summer when the mantises are out and about. That will be a worthy of a blog post.