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A bit of explanation about this post….I wrote this on another website about a year ago.  There was a person on the site that went by the name of What Nonsense.  What Nonsense’s avatar was a big, ugly, scary praying mantis.  He (she?) was my inspiration for this rambling. 

I have this thing about praying mantises. They scare the hell out of me.

My mother has a similar fear of snakes. My brother detests snails. My son carries on the tradition–he screams like a girl whenever he sees a spider.

“What nonsense,” Mr. Rizzuto tells me. He‘s a biology teacher. “It makes sense, from an evolutionary perspective, to be afraid of snakes. A snake could kill you. But a praying mantis? That’s just silly.”

It all started when I was about 6 or 7 years old. A big brown praying mantis attached itself to a screen window in my grandparents’ house. My grandfather, who was the smartest person I ever knew, saw everything as a potential learning experience. This was a perfect opportunity.

“Look Kevin, look Wanda,” he said. “It’s a praying mantis.”

Oh dear Lord what the hell is that horrible alien looking monster thing….“They call it a praying mantis because of the way it holds its front legs, as if in prayer.”

Good God please get me out of here kill it kill me something quickly…“It’s against the law to kill a praying mantis. They eat garden pests.”

Oh God Oh God Oh God MOMMIEEEE!!!!For the rest of the day my stupid brother kept telling me that the praying mantis was gone and it was OK to come back into the room. Since I was just a little kid I fell for it about 400 times. My grandfather finally came and told me that it finished its prayers and left. I’ve hated them ever since.

You don’t run into too many praying mantises when you grow up in New York City. The one time I do remember seeing one I stayed awake for hours waiting for it to come and get me. I figured that, theoretically at least, it could have followed me down the street, through the doors of my building, up the elevator, into my apartment and into my bedroom where it would be rubbing its little praying legs together waiting to pounce on me. I was a morbid child.

Now that I’m all grown up I realize what nonsense it is for me to be afraid of the damn things. But that’s what a phobia is after all, an irrational fear. When I was in college I studied animal behavior and I had to learn a lot about insects. I learned some really cool things about praying mantises. Did you know that it’s the only insect that can turn its head all the way around? Here’s another interesting piece of trivia: a praying mantis has an ear in its abdomen. Neat, huh? Yeah. Right.

Who am I kidding? I’ll never get over it. I had a co-worker once that told me a really creepy story about them. She had a friend that had some patio furniture. A praying mantis laid its eggs in the leg of one of the chairs. She moved the chair into the house. Mantises everywhere. And, of course, she couldn’t kill them because they‘re protected. Now if that were me I’d have to be carried out, foaming at the mouth, in a straight jacket. Then I’d have to sell the house.

Say it with me now. What nonsense.

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32 Comments

  1. Sorry, I had to laugh a little, but I’m with your son, and screaming like a girl doesn’t bother me a bit.

    A friend bought a cactus once that started vibrating about a month after she got it home. She called her husband, and he told her to get out of the house. Shortly after she did hundreds of baby tarantulas climed out of it. They had to tent the house to kill them all, before they could go back in.
    The stuff nightmares are made of.

  2. I had no idea that it wasn’t OK to kill a praying mantis. This may explain a great deal about my current undesirable circumstances.

    • the little fluffy cat
    • Posted October 25, 2007 at 5:39 pm
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    with me it’s the dead things on the back porch. *sigh*

  3. I think it’s perfectly rational and if there were a praying mantis in my house I’d kill the hell out of it and flush it. Who would know?

    Tarantulas!? Wow. I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep … ever again.

    Thanks. I really needed to stay up for the rest of my life with not sleep.

  4. Shawn, I’ve heard that story about the vibrating cactus before. Until now I thought it was an urban legend.

    • the little fluffy cat
    • Posted October 25, 2007 at 11:48 pm
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    David, no magical thinking! {{{David}}}

  5. Sorry, Corina.

    Wanda, like most urban legends it has a grain of truth. While the cactus does’t explode little tarantulas everywhere, it does vibrate slightly as they are hatching, and then they just climb out.

    Something else you have to be careful of is used furniture. (especially antiques) There’s no telling what laid it’s eggs in there. *shudder*

  6. Picture getting a toaster in perfect conditin that someone was throwing out, bringing into your kitchen and using it. Then weeks later your kitchen is infested with cockroaches that won’t go away. You kill them and they keep coming. You can’t find the source. Then as you lift the toaster to clean under it one more time, the bottom crumb trap pops open and out come hundreds of cockroach eggs. Mystery solved.

    This happened to someone I know quite well.

  7. Ew.

  8. I was going to respond to the monster movie feel of the praying mantis but now that I have read about the tarantulas I believe I will eye everything suspiciously, put on some slippers….or boots.

  9. How do you feel about centipedes? A praying mantis is a gentle bug, along the lines of a ladybug. Now, a centipede is fierce and carnivorous. I’m more afraid of them.

  10. If you want to know the truth Pan, I don’t like any bugs. They all freighten me.

    • the little fluffy cat
    • Posted October 26, 2007 at 6:10 pm
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    Bugs is icky.

    • the little fluffy cat
    • Posted October 26, 2007 at 6:12 pm
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    Well–except for, like, butterflies, and dragonflies. I quite like them. I like the idea of spiders–we put them out, if we can–but I don’t like them other than intellectually. I put them out and then I quake.

  11. I will never look at a toaster the same way!

  12. I thought the tarantula cactus was kind of cool, but the cockroach toaster officially grossed me out. I’m lucky to live in a state where bugs are rare. I mean literal state, as in, Oregon. My nonliteral state is quite populated with strange creatures.

  13. These comments are popping up out of order. It’s really messing with my head.

  14. You guys are really upsetting me. Anyone here into writing horror stories? Yuck.

    My phobia is crickets. I know – they’re supposed to be good luck, but damn. When you are folding a load of laundry, and one pops out and lands on your chest, then bounces away to hide for another attack? Terror. Pure terror.
    I hate the friggin’ things.

  15. Crickets are one of those critters with sticky little feet. *shudder*

  16. Ick. Me no like creepy-crawlies, faith-based or otherwise.

  17. Reading all this has me feeling all sorts of creepy crawlies all over me. I keep swatting at my hair, my legs, arms. There’s nothing there but I can feel them!

  18. I really started something, didn’t I?

  19. This is a creepy thread…like a sticky strand of spiderweb.
    Silverfish. They are creepy and destroy books.

  20. …but earwigs are really creepy.

  21. Earwigs have to be the creepiest!

  22. I think I’m throwing my toaster out.

  23. I saw a praying mantis in the flesh for the first time the other week when I was in L.A. It was at my aunt’s front door. Damn! That thing was really big and alien-looking. Sort of pretty though, in its way.

  24. I have to say, that was one of the most hilarious stories I’ve ever read. Anyway, thanks for sharing.

  25. I have also had a fear of the praying mantis ever since I was a kid. I’m 35 now, and they still scare the crap out of me.

  26. Hi, thank you for your story about praying mantis. I am 45 years old and have been terrified of them since I was a child. I have them all over my property in Southern California and have on several occassions encountered them on the door leading into the office that I rent for my work. On at least 5 occasions in the past two years, I have found a praying mantis on the door leading into my office. On each occasion, I used a wasp killer spray to eliminate the mantis from my door so that I could get into my office. the last occasion, I sprayed one and it ran away and then came charging back at the glass door to my office while I was looking from the inside with the door shut. I felt safe watching the mantis as it tried to climb up the glass while fighting the poison. This was the closet that I had ever been to a mantis and I actually lost some fear being able to look at it close up. the mantis eventually died and I was able to examine it closer.

    I am hyper vigilant in walking around my property and at my office fearing that I will encounter one. I have wasp spray in my office building closet and in my garage at the house. The mantis’s at my house are as big as 4-5 inches in length and some are quite aggressive others are very dosile.

    My therapist tells me that the mantis is symbolic of the problems that I have experienced in my life with a mean sadistic mother and having married a woman who was as bad or worse than mom. the mantis he tells me is a man hater. Once she mates with her man, she bites his head off.

    I have read all of Carlos Castenada’s books and can’t help but think that my constant encounters with the mantis are intended to teach me something and that I need to overcome my fear of the mantis in order to solve other more significant problems in my life.

    I have often wondered if I really fear that mantis or if my fear of the mantis is really a bigger fear or disorder that was transferred to the mantis when I was really young and first saw one. F. Scott Peck, M.D. in his book, “People Of The Lie” talked about syndrome of fear transference as a common syndrome.

    In any event, thank you for sharing your fears with me and allowing me the opportunity to discuss mine.

    Jim

    • Kill all insects. Especially grasshoppers+crickets+mantis+ladybugs _ all of them all of them

  27. Finding this post made me feel like I’m not alone is this world. If there’s a country on this vast earth with no mantises, I’m relocating there. I can’t sleep for weeks after seeing one.


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