The girls and I thought this was a dead slug, but ms_voren on Flickr identified it as an ootheca. A beautiful word, which I encourage you all to use in Scrabble. Oothecas (? oothecoi?) are egg cases belonging to mantises and other small creatures. Almost a month later, the weed upon which we found it was snapped off by the wind, so the girls picked it up and put it in the car. A couple of days after that, I got in the car to go to the shops, reached for the cover of a John Zorn CD and
saw that hundreds of tiny mantises were swarming out of the ootheca. I had to run downstairs to the house and back up again to get the camera, by which time they’d already begun to scatter. When I first saw then there were ten times as many mantises crawling over that JB Hifi receipt.
(Reintarnation, k d lang’s excellent compilation of tracks from her first three country albums.) The experience was a little like something from Aliens. Very, very little.
The combination of extreme smallness with insectile and vaguely predatory movements was both endearing and creepy. For the rest of that week, the mantises were a constant presence in the car.
To Clio’s relief – she was the most spooked by them – they now seem to have all either escaped or died.