Sometime earlier this winter I got a surprise. Not the bad sort of surprise either, as this one made me smile.
I have several fiddle-leaf fig plants, most of which spend their entire lives indoors. A couple of them though I've started putting outside for the summer. This is mainly because I was running out of space for them inside, but also because I know this results in a healthy burst of growth in them, and after several years of not enough light they do need a little boost.
Unfortunately I left these two plants outside too long, and they got some freeze damage. So much so that when I finally brought them indoors they dropped 80% of their leaves, and the most tender branches were obviously dead.
As some of those leaves fell to the basement floor, more of the bare branches were revealed and I noticed this:
A mantis egg case! Yahoo!
I spend a bit of time early each winter in the garden hunting for egg cases. Peering under vines at the deck railings and trellises, braving the spidery spots under the stairs and on the underside of the deck boards. Usually I find a couple, but this year: nothing.
If you remember, I like to overwinter at least one mantis egg case in the refrigerator each year, which guarantees that I'll have at least one successful hatching of these precious garden inhabitants. There's really no other insect that gets me as excited as mantises, and although I'm pretty certain that there are many egg cases out there that I never see, it's much more fun to distribute the little hatchlings myself!
Luckily this case was located on a branch that needed to be pruned, so I just pruned a bit lower and removed the treasure:
That was several weeks ago -- I don't know exactly when. I'm glad my basement is pretty chilly, as an early hatching would have been disastrous. Having dozens of baby mantises crawling around the house in the middle of winter would have been such a waste, as the only thing they'd have to eat would be each other.
Just a couple of weeks ago I got a second surprise:
As I was bringing another load of firewood into the garage, I noticed something that looked unusual on one of the logs: another mantis egg case!
The first thing I do when I see one of these is to check to see if it's empty or still loaded. If it were empty each of the little cells would have been open -- these were closed though. Have I already thrown some of these into the fire on nights when I wasn't paying as much attention, or when the wood was turned the wrong way?
I sure hope not, but now I have two egg cases to watch hatch in the spring!
I'll just leave this one in the cold garage for the winter, then put it outside in a well-protected location: I don't want a bird pecking apart the case for an easy snack!
The first egg case is in a jar in the refrigerator, as watching the hatching is one of the highlights of late spring for me.
It looks like I'll be seeing plenty of mantises this summer!