A Lesson in Ootheca

:: in which I raise the bar for embarrassing myself ::

Did I ever tell you about the time I kept a piece of foam insulation as a pet? This is a true story. When you hear it, you might think “That woman is dumb as a bag of rocks.” And what I want you to keep in mind is that sometimes when people are very smart they end up looking kind of stupid. Because they’re smart. Go with me on this.

One summer day I was visiting my friend Lotus, and as we walked around her front yard I noticed something amazing. A praying mantis ootheca! (I know, I know. What the heck is an ootheca? It’s the foamy, crispy egg sac of a praying mantis. And it looks just like foam insulation, but you’re really jumping ahead of me here.)

I knelt down to examine it more closely. Sticking my face right up to it, I said “Lotus, look at this! You have a praying mantis ootheca in your yard! You’re so lucky!”

Lotus peered down at it over my shoulder. “I think that’s a piece of foam insulation,” she said.

“No, it’s a praying mantis egg sac,” I said in my teacherly voice. “Trust me, I know what they look like.”

“Are you sure? Because some guys were here a couple weeks ago putting in new insulation and you know it drips, so probably a bit dripped down and hardened. It’s foam insulation,” Lotus said.

At this point you may realize that my friend was speaking the truth. But I wouldn’t hear it. What does she know about insect eggs anyway? I’m the one who would know. I was not going to let anything burst my entomological bubble.

“Well, do you mind if I keep it? I’d like to watch the nymphs hatch out.”

“Knock yourself out,” Lotus said.

So I carefully lifted the precious ootheca from the ground and brought it home where I placed it in a clear glass jar. And I watched it. Every day I checked on it, hoping to see the baby praying mantises hatch out. But for days and days, nothing happened.

After two weeks, I poked at it. It didn’t move. I went online and looked at pictures of real praying mantis ootheca to see if they looked like mine. They didn’t. They were kind of close if you squinted, but they weren’t the same. It was time to admit I had been hopefully and diligently tending to a piece of foam insulation.

I felt very stupid, and I considered never mentioning it to Lotus. But then I realized that making a fool of yourself comes with the territory when you get overly passionate about weird things, and I’m pretty sure my friends already know to expect this from me.

Although she didn’t have to laugh quite so hard when I told her.

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