a peek inside the fishbowl

On the nightstand: The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett

If you follow me on Twitter you may recall a thread I posted last year about a praying mantis egg case I bought at Costco, and the results of said egg case. Well I bought one again this year and I realized I never wrote about it here on the blog. What has prompted me to do this now is an email from a friend who is incubating her own praying mantis babies and I thought it might be helpful to jot a few things down.

Praying mantises (manti?) are considered natural insect control. The eat a whole host of backyard bugs including aphids, beetles, flies, mosquitoes, moths, and caterpillars.

Mama mantis lays her eggs in a case (called an ootheca, which I’m trying to remember for future crossword or trivia purposes) which contains many eggs inside. The ootheca isn’t much to look at, to be honest. It looks like a brown and shrivelled golf ball and if I saw one in the wild I might just ignore it.

The instructions that come with the egg case say that the mantis babies therein will hatch in 1-8 weeks. That’s a long time, I know. I bet lots of people give up. Last year ours took just over a month to hatch. (I started May 22 and they hatched June 28.) Of course, you have the option to leave the egg case outdoors but you won’t get to see the babies because they disperse quickly. This is why we decided to do it indoors so we can see the little buggers before releasing them on our aphid-infested plants.

Here’s how hatched praying mantis babies at home!

  • The egg case comes in a little mesh bag. We took a large glass jar, put some sticks inside it, and used a clothes pin to attach the mesh bag to a branch so it’s not touching the bottom of the jar.
  • We used an elastic band to attach a cloth across the mouth of the jar, because, air.
  • We put it on the window sill.
  • We used a mister to spritz a bit of water in the jar every day or so.

And then we waited. And waited.

This is what it looked like when they were born:

Cool eh? Baby mantises are basically miniature versions of adult mantises.

Newly hatched baby praying mantis

Some points to consider:

  • You will have no idea WHEN the eggs are about to hatch because the egg case looks the same the entire time. The babies just show up one day. (Consider taking bets.)
  • The NUMBER of babies will also be a surprise. Apparently you can have a few dozen or a few hundred.
  • We released them outside right away, which I think was a mistake. They are very small, and we had a rainstorm the next day. This time around we will wait a few days before releasing them, even though they might eat each other. Maybe the survivors will be a little tougher? (If you have kids, feel free to turn this part into a lesson on natural selection.)
  • You can keep a mantis in a closed aquarium. You just have to feed it appropriately-sized bugs.

You’ll feel like you’re in your own sci-fi film, with small predatory aliens that have cannibalistic tendencies. Bulging eyes on the side of triangular heads! Stick legs that bend in weird places!

It’s a face that only a mother could love.

Our neighbour found an adult mantis in her garden a few months after we released them and brought it over to show us. Mark managed to get it into a jar (honestly, I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole). Here it is:

I’m not sure if our ootheca will produce any babies. Some reviewers on the Costco site said they got duds. But that’s nature, right? We will just have to wait and see.

On the nightstand: Ysabel, by Guy Gavriel Kay

On the nightstand: Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

09 May, 2020

The warbler

By andrea tomkins in Misc. life

There is no mistaking the sound of a bird colliding with a window. I didn’t see it happen, but apparently the bird was honing down on an insect and swooped this way instead of that. Mark and the girls flew out of their seats to see what happened.

The poor thing didn’t move a muscle and hardly blinked. Mark picked it up and made a nest with his hand. I stayed inside, content to let my family have this moment to themselves.

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FYI there’s a new post on the blog.

A post shared by Andrea Tomkins (@quietfish) on

It rested there. It’s hard to know if it was frozen in fear or just stunned into silence. As I watched from my side of the window I realized I feel like that bird sometimes – dazed and confused. What day is it? Should I stay or go? What’s happening? What will happen next?

The vast wilderness beyond this safe space seems so big sometimes.

Fortunately it didn’t take long for the bird to regain his senses. He hopped out of Mark’s hand and perched on his finger to get his bearings; catch his breath. A bird is so tiny, practically weightless – a ball of feather and bone that is barely there, but it is. He returned to his world with a blink of eyes bright and focused, never to be seen again.


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  • andrea tomkins: Nope. The jar is on our window sill! It's getting the same dark/light cycle they'd have if they were on the outdoor side of the window. :)
  • Jennifer: That is really cool. I was wondering if you kept it outdoors? There is research on hatching monarchs indoors that it compromises them. They need the
  • Ted Benkhe: Jim Burns made a great point re visitation. I,m sure that the peace park will present very well after the volunteers who maintain it have worked th
  • andrea tomkins: I'm glad you find it restful Bonnie! I didn't on that day. :)
  • Bonnie Upton: I have a true love of this place. I drive to and from Ottawa from the NewmArket area to visit my sister snd now my son who attended uOttawa and has c
  • Amy: That sounds fantastic! As with most travelling, parts are much more comfortable when you're telling them afterwards, but they make a good story.
  • andrea tomkins: If I had to pick, Grundy wins! :)

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

If you'd like to contact me, please use this form. If you're so inclined, you can read more about me here. Thank you for visiting!


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