Eggs of a different color

Shelly Banjo

When Evanston children and their parents arrived at the annual Ladd Arboretum Egg Hunt on Saturday, they discovered that this year’s batch of brightly colored eggs didn’t come from the Easter Bunny.

They were actually praying mantis eggs. Sort of.

“We noticed all these strange eggs in the arboretum and had to call Dr. Insecta to find out what they were,” Karen Taira, the Ecology Center’s Environmental Educator, told approximately 100 children ages 2 through 10. “The eggs were baby praying mantises and we need your help to bring the eggs together and out of danger.”

The egg hunt was held at the Evanston Ecology Center, 2024 McCormick Blvd., between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. The program has been running for 10 years, with each year focusing on a different egg-laying animal.

“It’s a good chance to get outside and have a lot of fun,” said Michael Urbach, a part-time program assistant at the Ecology Center. “Putting a natural history twist makes it all more exciting.”

Each child collected 10 “praying mantis” eggs, placed them in his or her bucket and received tickets in exchange for their eggs. Taira explained to the children that the eggs needed to be kept together for protection until they hatch in the summer.

At the end of the hunt, children were able to redeem their tickets for small prizes such as plastic bugs, sticky sea creatures, small airplanes, fangs, balloons, rings and bracelets.

Evanston resident Sue Leoni said she has brought her two children to the Egg Hunt every year since they could walk.

“They love it because it’s a tradition to them,” Leoni said. “It’s great because it’s non-competitive and everyone comes home with prizes they pick.”

Her son Marty, 9, agreed.

“Yeah, it’s cool,” he said. “I got fangs and spiders and bugs.”

After the hunt the children were able to participate in different insect-related activities, such as coloring pictures of praying mantises with labeled body parts and making praying mantis egg cases out of construction paper and pipe cleaners.

“It’s a great experience to learn science and have fun at the same time,” said Evanston resident Kim Murray. “It’s an excellent ecology center with a nice selection of local animals in a great facility.”

She said she has brought her now 7-year-old daughter, Mattie, twice before and has attended other programs at the ecology center like summer camps and campfires.

The children were also able to explore the center and look at different animals such as turtles, gerbils, snakes, rabbits, hermit crabs, bugs and fish.

“The ecology center is nice, they love to see the animals,” said Evanston resident Dori Mendoza as her 4-year-old daughter, Kristen, came up to her and screamed excitedly, “Mommy, mommy, I saw a great big turtle.”