The Life of Maud

The graphic novel of the life of a praying mantis

My name is Maud. I am a praying mantis. I'm getting along in seasons now, but I still have a busy and interesting life. My friends have pushed me into writing the story of my life. Partly to warn the next generation of female mantis, and partly to entertain ourselves. My longtime friend Louise agreed to illustrate it since she was part of most of it. (Thelma passed on some time ago.)

So, on with it.

Like Athena, I sprang from an egg ready to hunt. And so did the multitude of my siblings. There were appropriate prey in the area where Mama had left us, but we soon caught and ate it all. (We are carnivorous insects. They should have called us preying instead of praying mantis.) Some of us were still hungry and started eating each other. (sibling rivalry at its finest). It occurred to me that I should leave the area quickly. Cannibalism is not a taboo with us praying mantis.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire, so to speak. No place was safe for a ½ inch long morsel for birds, bats (our mortal enemy), pesticides, lawn mowers, humans.

I spent all summer moulting and growing and learning camouflage techniques. I hatched in the Spring when everything was green and so was I. I didn't even know that I could change color. I did discover that I could blend into tall grass and certain deciduous trees to avoid birds. Also, to be careful hunting at night because that's when bats were on the prowl.

However, night time was a great temptation. I discovered the joys of porch lights—they attracted moths and other bugs and beetles—a movable feast, to dump another cliché on you. All sorts of bugs accumulated and I grew strong fast feasting on them. There was one special porch human who appreciated and encouraged my presence by leaving the light on all night, and I returned there for several seasons. Some humans however, tried to swat or spray me out of existence when all I was doing was cleaning up their neighborhood of nasty insects..

I also discovered a predator of a different variety. Male praying mantises. It was my first Summer and I was still too immature for sex. That's when Thelma and Louise and I met. They were older than I and more than ready for sex. In my naiveté I thought they were protecting me, but in reality I was bait for luring lovers for Thelma and Louise. Thelma lured a grungy male away from me, and Louise and I watched. After awhile, Thelma got excited and bit him in the neck. It killed him, of course, so the three of us ate him. Sex was going to be fun when I grew up.

The three of us hunted together for awhile. The plan was that an immature mantis (me) would tempt the perverts and the two of them would benefit with recreational sex, I would learn, and we would all dine well on their offsprings' daddys afterward. The downside was that when they were pregnant with all of those eggs, they were slowed down and did not hunt well. I had to do all the work. Bummer. Memo to self: do not get pregnant.

I also got bored with their company. For one thing, I like more variety in my diet than leftover mantises. Besides, Thelma and Louise got the tastiest part, the head and I was left with … So I wandered off and went hunting on my own for the rest of the Summer and Fall. I discovered that I could catch and kill small birds and mice that were much larger than I. I was much faster and the spines on my front legs could grab the prey in mid-leap while I bit them in the neck severing their spinal cord. I grew really fast on my high protein diet. No fast food obesity for me. I was lithe and svelte and very fit. I caught a humming bird that was very fast and four times my size and weight. Actually, he was full of transfat from sipping too much sugar water, but he satisfied my sweet tooth and I was proud of my skill. The downside was that I suffered from a drunken sugar high for more than a week, and like any drunk or stoner, was vulnerable to predators. I was lucky not to becomre prey and decided not to ever become that vulnerable again.

My flying skill developed exponentially. I learned to dodge and maneuver in mid-air when pursued by birds, bats and other mantises. I've been blessed with large compound eyes, very sensitive hearing, and the ability to blend in with my environment.

During that first Summer, I met some male mantises of my generation. I mostly avoided them and their fumbling advances. My hormones were revving up, but the males of my generation were just too immature and unpracticed. Boring, callow youth. And, they tended toward obesity. Too lazy to develop hunting skills, they probably wouldn't last through the Winter.

That first Winter, life moved slowly. Food was scarce and competition was heavy. I learned to be very careful and to avoid becoming prey myself. That's how I disreovered that I was being stalked by an old male mantis. An old male is a rarity. Most do not survive their first love affair. Henry had enjoyed many (according to him) and had avoided getting eaten by not overstaying his welcome. No long-term arrangements for him. “Hump and hike” were his motto and method for survival.

He had developed an effective seduction technique for luring young, easily flattered females. He tried to work his magic on me, but he was just too smooth and his flattery was too obvious. Finally, frustrated, he asked me if I were a lesbian. I didn't think I was. “So, what's with you?” he asked.

“I have watched others and it apparently hurts. Then she has to waddle around pregnant for months, slowed down so she can't for a decent meal and suffers extreme pain to expel a couple thousand eggs that her lover impregnated her with. What's so great about that? No wonder she bites his head off and I'll bite yours if you try it on me!”

“But that's our purpose in life. To carry on the species. Pass on our superior genes and DNA. If we don't, the weak, stupid specimens of our race procreate, and the eventual result will be extinction like the dinosaurs (distant ancestors) and neanderthals.”

“More empty flattery, sucker”, sez I. “I don't give a damn about future generations. Live life for now.”

“You're right:”, he said. “It was just another sales pitch. I don't really give a damn about future generations either. We're just killing each other off anyway. But I can teach you the joys of sex without the pain! I'll make a deal with you if you promise not to bite me in the neck when you're in the thralls of ecstatic orgasm.” “Ooooo-kay, sez I. But how do I avoid getting pregnant?”

TO BE CONTINUED