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The Lie: Evolution



By Karl C. Priest July 1998 (revised 9-1-17)

It all started last Fall with my third period eighth grade math class. Always ready for a diversion, their attention easily shifted from geometric formulas to the praying mantis that had climbed onto the outside of a classroom window. I have always felt a teachable moment was not to be passed, so I allowed the class clown to go out and catch it. Now, math is a real important subject, but what is division of integers compared to an insect named Dingle?

As a (very) amateur entomologist I decided to take the mantis home and learn about it. Previously my interest was with field crickets and I had spent many enjoyable hours raising and observing those interesting creatures. It didn't take long for the math mantis to capture my interest and convert me to a devoted mantis man. But, I've diverted from Dingle's story.

My daughter named the mantis Mandy. She, nor I at the time, had an inkling Mandy was a female. Mandy was just a name my daughter liked. Mandy was placed in a plastic terrarium outside on a patio table and soon her sex was confirmed. One night I looked out and saw another mantis on top of Mandy's home. Being the logical teacher I deduced Mandy had some type of attraction that drew the other, smaller, mantis onto the cage. Sure enough, when placed with Mandy it wasn't long until we were able to watch the mating process. When the task was completed Mandy's mate made a safe exit and I placed him in a separate cage where he died of natural causes after a few days. What does all this have to do with Dingle?

Mandy, fertile girl that she was, deposited three egg cases, each on the underside tops of separate cages, over the next several days. The motherly instincts of my wife and daughter created a bond between them and Mandy and she easily won these bug squeamish girls as her friends. Finally, Mandy deposited a fourth egg case on the bottom of her last cage. As we looked into her face we sensed her life was complete and, without the strength to climb, she would be suffering. So, I put her to sleep.

Now, let’s get to dingle. All of the above was important to the story of Dingle.

The egg cases were stored outside until I brought one in the house on February 17. I planned to distribute the babies to volunteers from seventh grade classes. The mantises hatched, in my absence, on March 20 and my lovely wife and sweet daughter were able to capture about 75 (of about 125) babies. We allowed all except six to be adopted and we kept the others to raise using the nursery method taught by Carolina Biological. Of the six we kept all were named and one name was--you guessed it-Dingle.

While observing the six nymphs we found each seemed to have its own personality. Dingle's first molt left him with slightly deformed rear legs. He overcame that problem (except for a slight shortening of one rear leg) by his sixth molt in June, but always had trouble getting his meals without a little help. He would make many missed stabs at fruit flies while his siblings snared them on the first try--hence the name Dingle--an affectionate form of Dingbat--was bestowed upon him by my daughter.

Dingle still needs help with his cricket diet. He makes several missed attempts before capturing his dinner often landing upside down on the bottom of the cage. Usually we have to direct the cricket toward him. Of the six mantises we kept, only one is alive today and Dingle is his name.

Postscript: Dingle recently molted for the seventh time. His wings are deformed, his right rear leg is warped, and his left foreleg functions although it appears to be not quite right. But, he catches his meals (in his own comical way) and has become a part of our family. By the way, it looks like Dingle's abdominal segments total six. My references say that makes Dingle a female.
Dingle’s photo became part of my presentation “Insects: Incredible and Inspirational” and has been seen by thousands of children across the country.