To start 2012 in a new way, we went for a walk to Yeoor hills, near Thane, India. We hadnt planned for it, just decided and started last minute. It was our first walk experience in India. Walked for more than 3 km, taking in all the nature, its miracles (small or big ones) and the way it works. Observed few bugs, plants and butterflies. When we took a break to relax, we saw a bug looking like a leaf bug. It had back similar to a small leaf, and its front legs had very small leaf like part each, dull green in colour. At first look, we thought that it was a leaf bug. We repented not having any plastic bags or containers with us. We had also stumbled upon a worm having a horn like a rhino, wanted to collect it but didnt have anything to collect it in.
Luckily we found a used crisp packet (for the first time in my life I was thankful to someone throwing garbage in nature's home). We collected the bug in that used crisp packet and tightened it using one of the climbing plant (climbing vine).
We also collected a sample of mushroom. We had never seen it ever, I am still to look for its type and name on internet. Bringing that bug home was a good experience for us. We put it in a transparent plastic container. We were not sure about what it eats. We tried putting some fresh leaves to the container thinking that it was a leaf bug, but it didnt work. Kedar found some information and images on google about different bugs and came to a conclusion that it was a violin Mantis. After knowing the type of bug, it was easier to maintain it. Kedar killed a mosquito and put it in the container, but the bug didnt pay much attention to it. After waiting for some time Kedar caught a live fly, and put it in the container. Bug caught it quickly and finished it in front of our eyes within few seconds. It was first time for me to watch a bug eat another living creature so closely. After few hours we also realised that it had also finished the dead mosquito.
Since the container did not have any holes for ventilation, we opened the container few times in a day making sure that the gap wasnt too big for bug to come out or making sure that the container was upside down. One thing we observed was the bug initially much preferred to be in top section of the container so whenever we turned the container upside down and opened the lid at bottom, it was easier. We read about the bug on internet. Ironically all information we could find on internet about Mantis was about Mantis in US, UK or Canada, there was only one mention about India Mantis which was spotted by a person from Netherlands. After reading about the bug on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gongylus_gongylodes and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mantis) we found out that it ignores crawling creatures and prefer flying ones for food. So we added a spider and a small fly to the container. We waited and watched, but bug did nothing at all. After reading the wikipedia article in detail, we found out that if it has human beings watching over it, it realises it and behaves differently than in its natural habitat. So we left the bug alone. After an hour or so, both of them, spider and fly were gone. So the bug hadnt ignored the crawling spider.
Another interesting thing I observed was the way it moved its front leg (the one with leaf like part attached to it) to the drops of water gathered on sides of container and then kind of licked it or rather put it in its mouth. Guess it was drinking water. It needs very less water and dry atmosphere.
After keeping it for 3 days like a pet and feeding different things, we had to let it go as we were going away for long weekend and couldnt take it with us. We left it in plants planted in our balcony, hoping that it will be all right there. After few minutes it was gone, hopefully to a safe habitat and not falling a prey to another creature or bird.
We plan to bring in many more things and bugs to observe and learn.
Wish we had this system in our schools, we had learnt much quicker and better. Alas, as a child I was only an exam candidate, now I am becoming a student.