The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

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    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
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    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
  • Front.pull
    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Praying Mantis: it only looks like a monster

Written by David Green.


There’s nothing quite like the feel of a praying mantis crawling up your bare arm. There just isn’t anything that compares.

But that’s the best way to handle a mantid. Just let it walk onto your hand and wherever else it wants to go. If you squeeze one around the plump abdomen, it’s going to get frightened and might even become a little aggressive.

I acquired a mantid, as they’re properly called, over the weekend and what a treat. My mother discovered it at the top of a porch screen and I brought it home for closer study.mantis1

This guy—gal?— is a good four inches long, which is probably the biggest insect you’re going to find in this part of the world.

I never tried to figure out whether it was male or female. It’s a matter of counting the body segments. I didn’t even determine what species I had. It looked exactly like a field guide photo of the Carolina mantid, but they aren’t supposed to live this far north.

There are several mantids that seem to be grouped under the heading “praying mantis,” but it’s the European mantid that actually claims that name. There’s supposed to be a bull’s eye pattern under the foreleg, but I didn’t see one. Besides, I’m no mantid trainer capable of making one raise a leg.

My friend, Deby, from Plymouth, says it’s a little like a newspaper personal ad. “SFM looking for SMM with bull’s eye on lower undereside fo tarsus. Enjoys moonlight strolls, the occasional crickete and predaceous habit.”

There are about 2,000 species of mantids scattered around the globe, but for this area, the Chinese mantid is about the only other choice. Noah, a young friend from Plymouth, says that’s the prevalent species in this area. His mother, Deby, read that the eyes of a Chinese mantid are tan in daylight and chocolate brown at dusk. It was already dark when I learned that.

It’s just some kind of mantid, and leave it at that.

But those amazing eyes, that bizarre triangular head, those skinny barbed legs. This is one oddly handsome insect.

Get up close to a mantid and the piercing eyes follow your every move. Some observers describe it as the most “human” of insects because it can stand up, it has a pair of mobile arms and it has a head that can rotate 180°.  It turns like ours, and it has an eerie alien look.

There are plenty of spines on the legs to grasp food, and the front legs fold up under the head to give the look of hands folded in prayer.

“Preying mantis” is more appropriate, some observers say, because those folded hands can shoot out with lightning speed to grab its prey. One scientist says it takes less than 50 thousandths of a second to reach out, grab an insect and bring it to the powerful jaws.

 I placed my mantid in a small red horse chestnut tree and watched it do it stick-legged walk around the leaves before settling into position. At one point I must have looked like prey because it charged my hand so fast that I jumped. It has sharp mouth parts, but they’re not long enough to pierce the skin of a human hand.

The insect might be appear fierce, but it’s a good friend to gardeners. In fact, an Asian species was introduced to the United States in 1896 with the goal of pest control. There are some large mantids that will even tackle small birds and frogs.

Mantids don’t shy away from cannibalism, either, and of course there’s the story about the female biting off the head of the male during or after copulation. The male is going to die soon anyway, and his head provides good nutrients for the soon-to-be mother.mantis2

There seems to be some controversy about whether or not this is typical behavior or whether it’s more prevalent among mantids in captivity. One study determined that sexual cannibalism is quite rare in most species, but fairly common with the European mantid.

After mating, the female whips up a frothy substance with her legs and lays up to 400 eggs in the substance. It soon hardens into a shell like Styrofoam to protect the eggs over winter.

I read that long ago in China, tea made by boiled mantid eggs was prescribed for the treatment of asthma, warts and bed-wetting. Another source said that mantid egg cases were roasted and fed to children to prevent bed-wetting.

As I said, it’s a very beneficial insect.

I visited my mantid Monday at noon to see if it survived the frost. It was still there in the horse chestnut and I tried to feed it a grasshopper. As I left for my own lunch, the two were still standing side by side, neither making a move.

I stopped by a few hours later at dinner and both were gone.

    - Oct. 16, 2002 

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