Skip to content

Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency Year Six: Case File No. 48-308

stock photo of a gorgeous pale pink "orchid mantis" on a marigold

This work is supported by the generous backers who adore my cat stories at and they also get first access to what’s happening with my books and podcast.

Where We Left Off:

Gus vanquished the first mouse of the year on the eve of the Spring Equinox which served well as a sacrifice to honor the returning light and Persephone.

The Female of the Species:

In the spring of 2021, the Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency brought you case file on a local cryptid, The Mantis! Why isn’t this creature more well-known? The Musconetcong River, where The Mantis was first reported being seen, is a popular place for fishermen. I would expect there would be a lot of witness statements about a giant praying mantis creature—if it’s still alive.

A little grammar fact: the plural is mantids not mantises.

These creatures are carnivores. You’ve no doubt heard about how the females will eat a male after mating. There’s no word on whether the cryptid variety also does this (except on one early episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

When Nag, the wayside cobra, hears the careless foot of man,
He will sometimes wriggle sideways and avoid it if he can,
But his mate makes no such motion where she camps beside the trail –
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

—Rudyard Kipling

The average mantis insect has a life span ranging from only a month to six months unless kept in captivity and cared for; then they can live as long as two years. Size plays a role in how long they live. With that in mind, a 7-foot tall mantis should have a long enough life it would be spotted by numerous people in the wild. The “wild” in this case being around the Musconetcong River or perhaps other nearby areas with a decent water supply providing frogs to eat.

There is so little known about The Mantis. Our detectives are pioneering this research. Frankly, we should be given grants for this.

black cat Gus standing in the grass by rocks

On March 29, 2023, Gust was extremely eager to get outside and begin exploring. So much so, he slipped between the legs of the Grumpy Old Man and darted out the hobbit door. Proud of his nakedness, Gus ran into the grass trying to embrace the freedom he knew wouldn’t last. We were about to go outside anyway so all I did was take his harness and collar outside, catch up to him, and strap him up. He behaved for the rest of the adventure—probably because he had time playing in his favorite trees.

Most of the time, Gus comes up with a routine for his patrol. Lately, he’s been going up the path right outside the hobbit door and he pauses at the first parking area. This gives me time to put birdseed in two places. Then we check out the rock fortress and see what’s going on. Gus has noticed critters inside the rock fortress, but they aren’t coming out which leads me to believe it’s moles or voles and not our chipmunk friends yet.

Artemisia weeds grow out of the rubble and all around the parking area. I’m pretty sure it’s the common mugwort variety. On the older, brittle stalks, Gus spotted a cocoon next to the wall. I didn’t want to disturb it in case the baby creature was still in there. I don’t know enough about them to be able to tell if there’s anything inside. Gus sniffed it and moved on while I kept trying to get a look. Unfortunately, on that day, he didn’t leave me much time.

The cocoon is shaped like a dome with wrinkles—much like my boobs when I lie on my back. I didn’t touch it. It looks sticky, but I have no idea if it is. Gus didn’t touch it either.

A couple days later, Gus showed me a second cocoon! It’s about six feet from the first pod and located on the rubble pile’s dead stems of mugwort. Is there something special about common mugwort that makes The Mantis choose this plant for its offspring? We needed more information.

After our staff meeting to fill Oliver in on the details of the cocoons, I went to *sigh* Facebook. There are more than one group for the town. Instead of posting in both, I decided to post on my personal profile wall and hashtag the town name. I hoped this would generate some news from locals, but it didn’t work. I didn’t get any response at all!

What’s also interesting and possibly noteworthy for studying The Mantis, is that the rivers, including the Musconetcong River where the creature was spotted, were freshly stocked in mid-April with trout from the Pequest Fish Hatchery. Perhaps trout fishes are a major part of this cryptid’s diet during warmer months. If so, what makes trout a valuable part of that diet?

Trout Trivia:

  • Trout and salmon can breed making a trout-salmon hybrid.
  • Rainbow and brown trout don’t generally breed together, but they can and are called “brownbow” trout.
  • A trout can change its color rapidly if it feels calm/safe or threatened/aggressive.
  • Trout communicate with each other through body language.
  • Approximately 570,000 catchable-size Rainbow trout are reared annually at the Pequest hatchery for the spring program.

Oliver looked at me with an expression that told me he was getting impatient with my internet sleuthing.

He said, “Human, none of what you said explains why The Mantids would live near the river and set their cocoons a mile away. Find out about their nutritional value. They are obviously a good food source.”

Oliver in his buggy outside

I went to the first nutrition website that showed up in the search results. It said trout fish are “semi-fatty” but good in protein and low in calories. They are also a rich source of include niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin E, vitamin B12, thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin-A, vitamin-D, and long chain omega-3 fatty acids (PUFA). However the amounts of vitamins A and D are lower than salmon.

This safety warning about adding trout to your human diet might be alarming:

Farmed trout may contain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and antibiotics which can have harmful effects on health. Also, there are confirmed reports that artificial dyes are injected into fish flesh to make them appear pink.

Trout, being seafood, may harbor microorganisms, such as parasites, bacteria, and viruses, that may cause foodborne illness. It is important to handle seafood safely to prevent foodborne illness.

It’s entirely possible that insects or other animals may have different digestive acids which can kill off anything harmful. I don’t know if that’s the case here. It’s also possible that due to a lack of food sources in this area, The Mantis cryptids rarely grow to adult size and that’s why there haven’t been reports of sightings in years.

Oliver in his buggy next to The Grumpy Old Man having a conversation

Case Findings:

Gus has successfully found two cocoons believed to be newly laid by Mantis cryptids. Oliver thinks the timing of the fish restocking in the waterways is a connection to when Mantis creatures reproduce and that those fish are a food source for them. We will try to monitor the cocoons to see if we can tell when the creatures hatch. We also need to follow up on whether there’s a special need for mantids to be near mugwort.

Case Status: Open


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *