I never would have predicted this, but it seems Big Sister has a real soft spot for praying mantises. In preschool, she found a small one on the playground and fell in love. Her teacher, who referred to it as her "spirit animal," sent it home with us in a plastic container. Big Sister, normally a bit squeamish, couldn't get enough of holding it and letting it crawl on her. Imagine her excitement when she learned that her kindergarten class would study praying mantises and hatch eggs.
She had to wait most of the year, as the praying mantis unit was near the end. And then she had to wait for the eggs (in a golf-ball-sized pod) to hatch. But finally there were hundreds of tiny praying mantises to observe. And feed! She loved feeding them flightless fruit flies.
Knowing Big Sister's fascination with the species, the kindergarten teacher stayed late one day to help Big Sister make a habitat so she could take home some bugs. Big Sister was thrilled to have these new pets, even if only for a short time. When it came time to release the last one to the garden (after a church spring fling, which explains the kitty face), it was hard to let go. Big Sister had become quite attached to Spikey.
She loved that Spikey seemed perfectly content to hang out on her arms rather than heading straight for the garden.
After an extraordinarily long time handling her little friend, and even showing the neighbors, Big Sister finally placed Spikey in his new home, the strawberry plants. Now everytime we eat a juicy, ripe strawberry, we know we have Spikey to thank for managing the pests.