Mantises for Lily

A Young Naturalist Renews My Sense of Curiosity.

August 12, 2020 Good Things


To master discovery, the secret is to always be a beginner. And who better to remind us of that than a young person.


If only I had someone who would help me see things with the clear-eyed curiosity of a young explorer, then I might rediscover my own enthusiasm for the simple things in nature that I've always loved.


Yesterday, our neighbor, Lily, did just that.


Praying mantis on black-eyed susans.


I didn't realize how these strange days had numbed my curious nature. But when the enthusiastic sixth grader showed us a praying mantis she'd found on her front porch, she gave me the spark I was missing.


She told us how the mantis had bravely walked across the knee wall of the front steps. Her eyes glowed as she recounted coaxing it up a stick and into a dry aquarium she'd lined with twigs and leaves. And her voice raised a notch as she told us how she presented a lakefly to the mantis and how it slowly stalked its unsuspecting prey.


Not every young person could see this play out before them with a sense of wonder. Lily did. She described the mantis's patient, stealthy approach. I sensed a slight cringe when she told us how it grabbed and began to devour the insect, but she regained her courage and without judgement, she let us know that this is what a mantis does to survive.


Her parents and we smiled as we all agreed with her. Her eyes were clear and kind as she looked forward to her next experience with the mantis even though she knew she'd release it after watching and caring for it a while.


So these photographs are for you, Lily. Thank you for opening my complacent eyes. You've encouraged me to get back on my path of discovery and see things like a beginner.



Here are some of my favorite experiences with praying mantises. Click on an image to open the gallery.



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