I had noticed a praying mantis hanging around on the underside of the porch roof. It was there for a couple days and each time i noticed it the thing was closer to charlotte’s web than it had been before. I didn’t think much of it until Charlotte went missing. When i last saw her the praying mantis was right next to her web. The following morning she was not there to greet me as i walked to the car. She was not there when i came home from work either. I wondered if she had moved back to the side of the house but if she had it was strange she hadn’t taken her web down and recycled the material to use in constructing her new web. I checked the side of the house, hoping to find her and breathe a sigh of relief. She was not there. I knew i should feel happy that i didn’t have to worry about a giant spider coming in the house anymore when i opened the door but there was no such glee in my heart. I felt heavy and saddened. Sili looked for her too. She had become accustomed to our little chats with Charlotte. She followed me everywhere. So she sat with me in the evenings while i updated Charlotte on the day’s highlights and the forecasted weather report, though she probably knew more than i about the coming weather. For more than a week Charlotte did not turn up. I decided to google what praying mantises ate. I was horrified by what i found. Not only were orb weavers on their list of preferred snacks; the way they went about killing their prey was gorey and downright inhumane! I watched a handful of videos in which the praying mantis grabbed a hummingbird, held its head, burrowed in through the eye socket, and ate the bird’s brain while it was still thrashing. Think about how terrifying an experience that must have been for the prey animal, to feel itself being eaten to death as its captor went after its brain. It was like a real life insect zombie. It was so wasteful. It decapitated these spiders, grasshoppers, and birds. It ate the brains and discarded the body. All the insects and birds were alive when the mantis was tunneling to the brains or decapitating them one bite at a time. It was so inconsiderate and void of all compassion. If i was going to kill a fish or a crab to eat it, i was going to make it a swift death and i was going to utilize every part of it out of respect for the animal whose life i just ended. These mantises were wasteful, brutal, and rutheless. They were barbarians. I couldn’t respect any animal that ate its prey alive one bite at a time while it struggled and writhed in agony. I was pretty sure that giant female mantis had eaten my charlotte and i made up my mind right then and there to do a better job protecting ruby than i had charlotte. I had known that mantis was there and i did nothing. I hadn’t realized what a danger it was. I decided that if i saw another one i would have to kill it. It was a hard conclusion to come to as i tried not to interfere in the natural balance of things in the wilderness, and if i sided with the spiders, that would be me interfering. However, after the bird videos i read an article talking about how female praying mantises ate the heads of their mates during or after the act of mating. Sure enough, there was video footage of that as well. Thank you youtube. My nightmares were haunted by images of praying mantises biting the heads off things and discarding the bodies. They were like the ultimate animal narcissists.