We’re having a picnic this weekend, and in spite of the fact that our lawn has been challenged by the long dry spell this summer, it seemed like a good idea to finally cut the grass.  There will be some small children in attendance, and I just hate it when we lose them in the overgrowth.  With rain predicted for the afternoon, I decided to race the weather and mow yesterday morning.  That way, maybe the moisture would find its way to the ground and encourage some new growth.  It appears that this was a good plan, and today my yard looks 30% greener than it did just 24 hours ago.

It usually takes me about an hour to cut the grass, but yesterday it took most of my morning.  There were fallen pears and apples that needed to be raked before the mower could do its job.  There were some weeds that needed to be pulled by the garden fence.  At last I was ready to start the mower and make quick work of the cutting.  As I approached the shed where we store the mower, I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of a praying mantis who clung to the side of the building.  As you probably know by now, I don’t go out to do yardwork without my camera; so I grabbed it from the front seat of my car and hoped for a snapshot of this gorgeous insect.

I’ve learned that taking one photo is risky business — at least for this amateur — so I decided to take several, just to be sure I had a good one.  The second shot was amazing!  Just as I pressed the shutter, Mrs. Mantis turned her head, as if to say, “is there something I can do for you?”

It was as though she was looking right at me and wondering whether I might have something better to do than annoy her majesty.  She turned and walked down the wall toward the clump of peppermint that grows beside the shed.  I was watching her make her way to cover, when suddenly she stopped. She struck a pose — silent and still, like a martial artist practicing his forms — and, before I knew what was happening, “SNAP!”  She brought her forelegs together and caught a bee.

I sat, mesmerized by the sight of her efficient mandibles working at devouring her prey.  I’ve never seen such a sight before; and the thought of lawn mowing moved deeper and deeper into the recesses of my mind.  It took only three minutes for the plump bee to disappear, and I thought of the harshness of the natural order — that a bee, gathering pollen for his hive should suddenly become a meal for a mantis.  Soon it will be time for her to deposit her eggs in an ootheca that will carry her species into a new generation next Spring.  Will they carry part of the bee’s memory into the new year?  Will they have a cellular memory of the tasty bee that sustained their mother and brought them into being?

Clouds began to gather overhead, and I thought again about finishing my outdoor work before the rain arrived.  I put the lens cap on my camera and started to turn away, when “SNAP!”  Another bee met its fate.

Again, the voracious praying mantis made short work of devouring her latest feast.  I found myself wondering just how many bees she could fit into that slender body before she would need a membership at the local gym.  My question was answered as she ate the last morsel of bee-wing and sauntered slowly toward the mint and merged her own green with the leaves that surrounded her.  Nothing like a siesta after a hearty meal.

She settled in for a snooze, I returned to reality and my outdoor work, and the bees in the mint buzzed a soothing lullaby — and maybe dreams of abundant mantis food.