- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
He's a mantis. A masked mantis.
And Santa Claus does not DRIVE a sleigh.
The jolly ol' gent RIDES a mantis. A masked mantis.
Take it from UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty members Robert and Lynn Kimsey.
A masked mantis with Santa astride graces their front yard in Davis. The mantis? It's probably a Stagmomantis californica, native to the Western United States—and the Kimsey domicile.
Unfounded (and unfunded) scientific research indicates that passersby have laughed at the mantis, but it is not known whether anyone has ever called him names or banned him from playing reindeer games. A National Institutes of Health grant may determine that.
Rumor has it, though, that S. Claus--aka Kris Kringle or that Pudgy-North-Pole-Resident-Who-Never-Met-a-Cookie-He-Didn't-Like--did approach the red-nosed mantis and mumble something like “with your nose so bright, won't you guide my sleigh tonight?” Or maybe it was “Hey, buddy, can I hitch a ride?”
Anyway, the red-nosed mantis, not known for keen auditory perceptions, consented.
Of course, all the reindeer loved him and shouted out with glee that he would "go down in his-tor-ee." That's because Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen and Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen wanted to get out of work. Who wants to pull a sleigh that defies the maximum federal gross vehicle weight of 80,000 pounds?
But what, pray tell, will happen if the preying mantis gets...umm...hungry along the way?
Professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and an authority on insects, and Robert Kimsey, who specializes in forensic entomology, caution that children should NOT leave milk and cookies (not even luscious chocolate chirp cookies made with crunchy crickets) on Christmas Eve as the red-nose mantis prefers live crickets, mealworms, bees, beetles, syrphid flies, grasshoppers, butterflies and caterpillars, thank you.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
So goes a line from "Santa Baby." The songwriters (J. Javits, P. Springer and T. Springer) listed all the good presents they wanted Santa to bring: a sable, a '54 convertible (light blue, please!), a yacht, a duplex and a deed to a platinum mine.
The late Eartha Kitt sang it well, emphasizing: So, hurry down the chimney, tonight!
Odds are that Santa will indeed hurry down the chimney if honey bee colonies occupy the roof. The growing popularity of urban beekeeping means not only more backyard beekeepers but more rooftop beekeepers.
Umm, be careful out there, Santa! You will need some protection: a veil, gloves and smoker. And are you sure you want to wear red? Bees dislike red. It's black to them and bees dislike black. Intensely. Did I say intensely? intensely.
Another thing, Santa, please note that your reindeer will pause longer on the rooftop if they encounter bees, and this will adversely affect your global delivery schedule.
Up on the housetop, reindeer pause
Out jumps good old Santa Claus
Down through the chimney with lots of toys, all for the little one's Christmas joys.
--Up on the Housetop"
In fact, Santa, your reindeer may turn a "pause" into a "standoff" due to guard bees defending their colony. Aggressively. And they don't much like reindeer hooves (or anything else, for that matter) disturbing their hives.
And take Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. He's a perfect target and not just because of hooves flailing. It's that bright red nose. Bright. Red. Nose. Ouch!
Question: Ho, ho, ho, who wouldn't go? (Up on the Housetop)
Answer: Umm, Santa and his reindeer?
And remember Clement C. Moore's "The Night Before Christmas?"
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
but a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
with a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
The key words here are "so lively" and "quick." One sting, and you, Santa, will certainly be both lively and quick. Very. Lively. Very. Quick.
The Chronicle, as you may remember, launched rooftop beekeeping back in 2011 in an effort to help save the disappearing honey bees. Beekeeper May writes "Honeybee Chronicles."
Santa does not read the "Honeybee Chronicles." He is too busy reading lists and questioning whether people are "naughty" or "nice."
These days, however, it is not just about being "naughty" or "nice."
Santa is bound to ask: "Pardon me, but do you keep bees on your roof? How many colonies? Are they European honey bees or Africanized bees? And are these bees accustomed to encountering a red-dressed, bearded fellow driving a not-so-miniature sleigh pulled by not-so-tiny reindeer and led by a reindeer with a big, fat red nose?"