homepage logo

News of the weird this week included a large bug named Vern

By Staff | Oct 13, 2008

Kids from Head Start in Blue Earth found a praying mantis, kept it for two days and named it Vern. On Wednesday afternoon they set Vern free.

I have to admit, there have been some strange stories in the Register lately.

For instance, there is the one about new Blue Earth city administrator asking the council to quit trying to do things she should be doing.

Or how about a multi-million dollar jail going up, and the biggest controversy concerns the $13,000 water softener system.

Then there is the fact there is not one, but two stories this week concerning marijuana busts.

Last week we had a story about a gigantic steam engine hidden away for over 50 years right in the middle of town. This week it is a story about a Blue Earth man willing to work 38 straight hours on a cabinet project for a family he has never met.

All of them sound as though they could be one of our infamous April Fools Day stories. Except for two things; it isn’t April, and the stories are all true.

Despite it being a strange week, and the fact that I had a miserable cold, I still wasn’t prepared for the phone call on Wednesday afternoon.

The staff at the Head Start program was letting me know they had a praying mantis, and they were going to release it from captivity. Did I want to take a picture.

I shook my nasal-congested head. “A what?” I asked. “Praying mantis,” they said.

This I had to see.

Sure enough, the kids had found a praying mantis in the parking lot near their playground area. The teachers had put it in an aquarium and kept it in the classroom for a few days. They caught some crickets and fed them to the mantis, and I guess he enjoyed them.

They also named him Vern. When I asked why Vern, they said it was because he looked like a Vern. (Ask a stupid question…).

Now comes the weird part.

When the kids let Vern go back into the wild (well, the ‘wild’ of the neighbor’s backyard), he came out of his aquarium and seemed to walk around looking at each kid. He stood up and cocked his head, turning it to stare at each one.

I think he actually waved.

Then he hopped onto one boy, giving him a farewell scary hug.

After that, he marched off into the lawn, turning one more time to look back at the kids.

I swear, I thought I was watching a Disney movie. You know, where the kids take in an injured animal, nurse it back to health, and then have to say a sad farewell. I almost expected Vern to don a top hat and cane and sing “Hello my darling.”

The kids were not all that sad, however. After saying goodbye to Vern, it was off to the playground for them.

Now, a quick search on Google tells me that a preying mantis is a tropical bug and not really indigenous to Minnesota. It also says that most of them only live 10 to 12 months, even in good weather.

The point is, Vern may not be doing so well in the next month or so, out on his own. But don’t tell the kids that.

You probably don’t want to tell them about all the predatory characteristics of a mantis, either. They do eat all kinds of other bugs, and larger ones have even attacked small lizards and mice.

There is a video on the Internet of a mantis and a mouse – really.

Then there is the fact that they are cannibalistic. There is also the notorious example of the female who will sometimes tear off the head of the male and eat it, after mating.

Sounds pretty grim to me.

The females regularly lay hundreds of eggs in white cases, and the nymphs hatch looking like small versions of the adults. Maybe there will be more little Verns around Blue Earth someday.

Which does raise the question. If the mantis is not native to this area, just where did Vern come from anyway?

One theory could be that praying mantis are available to purchase. Gardeners use them to help keep other insects at bay.

Maybe he had just wandered off the job, and wanted to play awhile.

For now, we will just file it under future April Fools Day story ideas.