There were a lot of strange characters in the West Village over the weekend with the Halloween Parade and the pre-election rallies, but the most surprising thing I came across was a praying mantis trying to cross a cobblestone street by Gansevoort. It was not moving very quickly-- in fact it seemed a bit lost and stunned like a deer caught in headlights. A teenage girl had spotted it and she was very concerned that it not be run over but did not want to touch it. I looked at it, and I looked at her, and looked at a van that was coming right at them, and decided to give the mantid a ride on my purse to a safer location. The van honked because we were not moving out of the way fast enough, but I just let it wait-- it is not every day that a praying mantis is trying to cross the street. I was going to bring it to Hudson River park, but the girl asked if she could keep it in her back yard. I was a little nervous it might jump out in her apartment and then there would have to be a bit of a scene trying to retrieve it from behind her sofa, but luckily it seemed to like my purse as it stayed on through her house until I gave it a gentle push into one of her planters.
I still wonder where it came from, as the praying mantis is not a common urban insect. I wonder if it could have come from the High Line, which is only a few blocks away. On the Friends of the High Line web site they say they are using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in their operations, and I wonder if introducing praying mantis to control populations of aphids or other garden pests might be part of their strategy. Maybe there was not enough for it to eat on the High Line so it wandered off into the neighborhood looking for a good restaurant. I have also read that some people keep mantids as pets because they are such large, charismatic insects. Perhaps the mantis I saw was a runaway from a nearby apartment, escaping the torture or neglect of a small child.
I have not yet, and I'm not sure if I ever will find out where it came from, but my suspicion is that somebody brought it to the West Village because I cannot see it coming down on its own accord, no matter how great a reputation the Halloween Parade has, or no matter what it might have heard about the abundance of the bed bugs in the neighborhood. Whatever or whoever brought it to the neighborhood, I hope more will come again next season. It was very cool to see, it will likely help keep the mosquito population down, and anything that forces vans to slow down is a great addition to the neighborhood in my book.