Sunday, May 22, 2005

Rainy Spell

Had a tough time keeping the mantids feed through that last rainy spell. The vinegar flies were getting scarcefor a while.
I have noticed a color difference between the mantids. They are a light brown before molting and green right after they are done molting. There is also a distinct difference in their eye colors. Some are black and some are green, but I haven't determined why.
Their is one who has grown noticeably larger than all the rest but they are still not large enough to change cage situation.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Mantid update

The Mantids are finally getting larger, some more than others, and I have started feeding them just vinegar flies. For some reason the mantids prefer them to aphids even though the flies have better defenses. I have also discovered that I can trigger a feeding response by spinning the cage. The flies will move towards the light so as I slowly spin the cage I force them to walk past the awaiting mantids which remain stationary. After several revolutions many of the mantids have had the opportunity to catch their dinner. It also seems to excite them triggering a desire to feed.
They still occasionally eat each other but more often they test each others abilities in mock confrontation, toeing the line, each taking turns striking and grabbing the other but releasing before any damage is done. They will then stand facing each other about one body length apart in a stare down, neither willing to be the first to walk away.
I am also preparing to release some live mosquitoes in the cage to vary their diet a bit more

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Who Nose

I have way to many mantids relative to the amount of soft bodied prey for them to eat. I had more hatch in the second cage and they have become over crowded. I wanted to release some in the yard today but it's windy and raining, so maybe I'll wait one more day, but then that would be there natural enviorment if they had been born in the wild, maybe I'll just open the top of the cage and give them the option to escape if they please.
One thing that I have noticed though is that dispite what I have read, they do seem to be social, at least in the closed enviornment of a cage. They tend to gather together rather than distancing themselves from each other except for the rare individual.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Day in the Cage or Mantid on Prozac

The mantids are finally showing signs of growth and they are shedding their exoskeletons. I was afraid they weren't getting enough nutrients from just the aphids so I started feeding them more vinegar flies with a few fruit flies. My home-made fly trap has begun producing quite well, although I may need to build a second one when the mantids require a larger supply. I have also started to raise the humidity, misting them more frequently as the temperature has been rising, hoping it will help them molt easier. I have also obtained a large aquarium for breeding purposes to use later this summer.
Their have been many casualties and the bottom of the cage looks like a battle field, dead bodies spread unevenly about. When I looked into the cage this morning I saw one headless mantid perched from a branch still holding on while his abdomen still pulsed with life. Standing near was a larger mantid who seemed to be watching it prosaically, just another day in the cage for him. Still the survival rate seems high but they move so fast I could never count them.


March 23,2005

You Say Tomato, I say Mosquito
(By Jim Burnell)

Gathering tomatoes or other fruits of the garden might not sound like a dangerous occupation, but with terrorism running rampant these days, even a walk thru the garden can require pre-emptive measures. In fact if you left the screen door open for a minute or so and heard a whiny frequency accompanied by a slight tickle it may already be too late, if that slight tickle was the allergic reaction of your skin cells to the Culex, Aedes or Anopheles mosquito, one of the several species that prefer humans, and are capable of transmitting microbial organisms to living cells.
Every year two million people die of malaria, which is transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito, but most of those deaths occur in Africa. In the U.S. malaria is considered rare, but the West Nile Virus is on the move and has reached all the states except Alaska and Hawaii.
The West Nile Virus is two millionths of an inch wide, smaller than most viruses. Viruses occupy a special taxonomy position in that they are not plant, animal or prokaryotic bacteria, and should not even be considered organisms because they are not free-living. (They cannot reproduce with out a host cell.)
The West Nile Virus has been studied for decades but did not arrive in the US until 1999. It is most similarly assocciated with other viruses that cause encephalitis, (inflammation of the brain), and it is highly fatal to avian species, corvids, mostly non-migratory birds distinguished by same sex characteristics. The West Nile Virus is also fatal to horses although there is a two-dose vaccine available for horses. It is not known when a vaccine will be discovered for humans or birds, so the best method of dealing with the virus is through avoidance. The West Nile Virus is past on to its animal host through the saliva of the female mosquito at the time of injection. The female mosquito needs a blood meal to complete reproduction, and pass on proteins to her offspring. The male mosquito does not eat blood but lives only on nectar and fruit juices.
Avoiding mosquitoes can be a big problem if you’re an outdoors person unless your companion is more susceptible to mosquito bites than you are. Some people attract more mosquitoes than others. (They must have a better bloodline.) Mosquitoes can lay their eggs in as little as one tablespoon of water which hatch and become adults in as little as seven to ten days. Finding all the water sources in which they can breed is next to impossible, but eliminating the obvious places will help. (Rain gutters, bird baths, flower pots etc.) In order to avoid mosquitoes it helps to know how they find you. They use sensors on their antenna to pick up body heat, odor and carbon-dioxide from exhaled breath to find their meal. That’s why black-light traps do not really work well, (mosquitoes use thermal imaging, not ultra violet). The female mosquito will work her way upwind zigzagging back and forth to the sources of these bodily cues. As she gets closer she uses colors and moisture in the air to close in on her target. British researchers found that mosquitoes would respond to animal bodies up to forty-five feet away. Mosquitoes become inactive when temperatures drop below forty-five degrees F or above eighty-two degrees F or when wind speeds are higher than six meters per second.
Some repellents are very effective at binding the mosquito sensory antenna. Repellants composed of heavy irregular shaped molecules work best. They block the pores of the sensory hairs of the mosquito antenna forcefully changing the mosquitoes point of view, causing her to fly past a living target. Area repellants like candles and incense with citronella have been proven effective at averting mosquitoes and even a plain wax candle can work as a decoy to trick mosquitoes. One of the best and most familiar repellents is a chemical product called Deet, which was developed by the USDA and patented by the US Army in 1946 and then registered in 57 for use by the general public. It is a broad spectrum repellent targeting many different insect pests, however one thing that might not be so well known is that Deet should not be used in conjunction with any other insecticide containing Permethrin as it can cause severe cellular damage according to Duke Universities Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health.
One of the most interesting, and recent repellants I have discovered while researching this article is the use of a common perennial herb or weed called catnip. Researchers at Iowa State University and the US Forest Service released information in 2001 on the effectiveness of nepetalactone, an essential oil found in catnip that works 10 times more efficiently than Deet although they say nothing about its duration comparison. Iowa State had submitted a patent application for the use of catnip compounds for insect repellents and commercial products are already available to the general public, (although I do not know if that means that thorough testing on humans or animals were completed). Caveat Emptor. Obviously cats will be meowing all over the neighborhood once these products become popular. (Skeeter-free, Natures Herbal, Natural Herbal Shield are a few). Some companies may be cheating the law by not calling there products a “Repellant”, so as to bypass FDA regulations.
You may want to try mixing your own concoction of catnip repellant. It’s available at nurseries and in the wild if you know what it looks like. Catnip was introduced to the US from Europe in the late 18th Century, and has been used for seasoning and teas for years. It is thought to have many healing properties among them help for (inducing sleep, migraine headaches, fevers, sedative, fatigue, restlessness, pain killers, improving circulation and symptoms associated with the flu.) It is also high in vitamin C. Catnip was also called the “Hang-mans Root” and was used by early American colonial executioners to put them in the mood before an execution. In England it was used to flavor beer because it cost less than hops. Over the years their have been many other plant-derived repellants to combat insects such as lavender extract, cedar wood, neem oil, Rosemary, peppermint geranium, lemongrass and others.
As far as electronic devises sold to repel insects, be sure the experts who tested these devices were not on the companies payroll, or be careful of which expert you listen to. Some of these products do more damage than good. In May 2001 the FTC sent warning letters to 60 companies selling these devises, warning them not to make claims without scientific evidence. In August 2002, Lentek International was charged by the FTC, for making false claims that their electronic mosquito repelling devices, repel mosquitoes. (
One proven method that partially worked for my dad when I was growing up, was the nightly mosquito hunt. Each night before bedtime the five of us kids were assigned a rolled up newspaper and a room, and we could not go to bed until every mosquito in the house was extinguished. It worked 90% of the time and gave the walls and ceilings that natured texture look. The funny thing bout it was the other 10% of the time the mosquitoes only got dad.
Mosquitoes play an important role in the food chain, mostly in their larvae and pupae stages, transforming algae, bacteria and organic matter into meals for fish and other aquatic creatures and wading birds etc. and it would not be beneficial to eliminate all of them.
So far this year in Ca there have been no human cases of the West Nile Virus reported. Last year out of 830 reported human infections, 27 were fatal. In November 2003 a bio Technology Company called Acambis started the first human clinical trial of a West Nile Virus vaccine. So far it has performed well in hamster, mice, monkeys and horses. Most cases of the disease occurs in the elderly and others with impaired immune systems, there have been cases of transmission through blood transfusions, and organ transplants. In most cases those who have West Nile Virus do not even know they have it. A few will develop flu like symptoms 4 to 10 days after the infection, and a rare few will develop encephalitis.

University of Ca. Publication 7451
Author: Bruce Eldridge, Dept. of Entomology, UC Davis

Catnip as a Mosquito Repellent
Author: Jeffrey s. Hoard
National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy

Dept of Health and Human Services
Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Grow your own mosquito repellant
Author: Ann Lovejoy

Integrated Pest Management of Alaska

Iowa State University Extension Fact Sheet

Iowa State University
Joel Coats, Entomology
Brian Meyer, Agriculture Communications

Encyclopedia Britannica 2005

Monday, May 02, 2005

For Aaron

Hi Aaron, Your dad says that you are collecting ladybugs but it is hard to find enough food for them to eat, and that you are putting roses in the cage so they will eat the aphids. If you can not find enough aphids you can also feed them raisins or other small pieces of cut fruit. If you use raisins you have to cut them in half and soak them in water for a few hour before you put them in the cage. You should also soak a cotton ball in water and put that in the cage so they can get a drink without drowning, and don't forget to LIGHTLY mist them with a spray bottle twice a day to keep the humidity high. If the temperature get over 70 degrees they will want to start flying and they won't be very happy in the cage. That's when its time to let them go.