Insect stowaway hops in luggage

The praying mantis travelled from South Africa in a family's suitcase
The praying mantis travelled from South Africa in a family's suitcase

A Berwick family had quite a shock when they discovered an unexpected guest in their luggage after a holiday to South Africa.

A praying mantis had travelled thousands of miles from South Africa to the UK in the family’s suitcase, surviving the air pressure conditions in the plane’s hold.

The adult sized insect gave the Menzies family from Berwick a huge surprise when it was discovered amongst the family’s washing pile, the day after their return from a two week holiday.

Unsure of what to do with the six-legged stowaway, mum Pippa placed the mantis in a plastic tub lined with twigs and grass.

She then contacted Drusillas Park’s bug expert Angela Hale, who agreed to take the mantis in.

It has now been rehomed at Drusillas Park in Alfriston.

Angela said the family did the right thing by contacting the zoo for expert help and advice on the insect stowaway.

She said: “Praying mantis are intriguing creatures that pose no threat to humans.

“They are not difficult to care for but you do need to know what you are doing in order to ensure they remain happy and healthy.

“Pippa did the right thing by getting in touch and we will provide the mantis with a good home.”

Jake aged nine, Jamie aged seven, and Archie Menzies aged six, accompanied the praying mantis to Drusillas for the changeover.

Fascinated by their tropical travelling companion, Angela helped the boys handle the insect and explained a little about it.

Praying mantis live in temperate and tropical climates around the world.

They are named due to their two prominent front legs, which are bent and held together in a manner indicative of prayer.

They are exclusively predatory and will only feed on live prey, eating almost any insect, including crickets, grasshoppers, bees, moths and even their own kind.

Angela added that the expert stowaway does not need to eat every day, which would have helped it survive the trip.

She said: “Praying mantis are expert hunters; they have a triangular head which they are able to turn 180 degrees to look for food.

“Luckily for our new arrival, they do not need to eat every day and generally feed every one to four days, depending on the species.

“They extract all the water they require from their food and the vegetation around them.”