I read Gordon Grice's The Red Hourglass over holiday break, and one question it left lodged in my head was what insect was the "cricket-beast" Grice wrote about in the mantid chapter. Grice placed this giant bug, which he found in his driveway, into a jar with a mantid (praying mantis) and the cricket-beast devoured the mantid with ease.
I owned a pet praying mantis in high school. While I was touring Japan with a youth symphony, the young son of the host family I stayed with gave me a praying mantis he grabbed out of a tree while we were sightseeing. No doubt in violation of some U.S. tourism laws, I brought the mantis back to the U.S., keeping it in my shirt pocket the whole flight home.
I kept it in a jar, and each day I'd catch some different insects to toss into the jar as an experiment. I didn't know what praying mantises ate, but given the famous configuration of their two barbed front legs, I was fairly certain they weren't vegetarians.
What I discovered was that the mantis had a wide and worldly palate. Crickets, moths, wolf spiders, grasshoppers, flies--the mantis ate all of them whole. In just two weeks, my mantis had eaten enough that it molted and emerged even larger than before. I was enthralled by the glorious violence of its feeding.
So when Grice wrote about a cricket-like beast that caused the mantis to retreat in fear and that mauled said mantis with a casual efficiency, I was intrigued.
Sometimes it seems like the internet was invented for such questions. On his blog, Gordon Grice reveals the identity of the cricket-beast.
Incidentally, doesn't it feel like a huge miss that this annotation can't be added to the Kindle version of the book for future readers?