Most people don’t give bugs a second thought—other than to swat them away with a rolled-up newspaper. But for Riley Tedrow, an entomologist at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, thinking about bugs is his life’s work. One insect in particular fascinates him—the praying mantis, or the sucker with the crazy eyes and a knack for insect-on-insect crime. Riley has even discovered and named a new praying mantis species, Dystacta tigrifrutex, a.k.a. the Bush Tiger Mantis.
On how he became a bug-lord: “I’ve been fascinated by animals forever, but among insects, the praying mantis was always my favorite. As a kid I built a large terrarium and watched as they devoured whichever other insect I put in front of them.”
On praying mantises being bad at long-term relationships: “In some, not all, species of praying mantis, the female will consume the male during or after mating, unless she’s too satiated from a previous meal.”
On getting to name his first new species of mantis: “I was lucky enough to travel to Rwanda with a team of entomologists who were planning to survey the biodiversity of insects in the national parks there. One night, I trapped what turned out to be a new species of mantis. We named it the Bush Tiger Mantis for the way in which the flightless females ambush prey in the underbrush.”
On his Ace Ventura-esque collection of pets: “I’ve had a number of interesting pets over the years. The current list includes an alligator snapping turtle named Esophagus, a small colony of ghost mantises, a couple stag beetles and a carpet python named Rocky. My one furry pet is a Siamese cat named China.”
On some of the crazy things that have happened to him in the field: “When you work in some of the most remote places around the globe, you’re going to have some close calls. In Vietnam I fell into a Punji stick trap left over from the war. In Africa, I had to run from angry elephants and trap two snakes—a 15-foot python and an angry, extremely deadly viper.”
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