“So, what exactly do you do, then, at the greenhouse?” He was not so good at small talk on first dates. His usual strategy was to order a bottle of wine, ask a few questions, nod and smile.
“Mostly plant protection, which is integrated pest management and pesticide application.”
“I scout and determine what needs to be done.”
“You look for weevils, then?”
“Yes, they are our organophosphate issue. We scout for larvae and then apply the bad shit that doesn’t work.”
“Do you use ladybugs or praying mantises, too?”
“We use predatory mites, hypoasphis for fungus gnats and encarsia for white flies. Ladybugs and mantis are hard to control for application.”
There was a pause, and then the ordering of hors d’oeuvres, prosciutto crostini with lemony fennel slaw. He was starving.
“When I was in sixth grade, we had a female mantis in a terrarium in our classroom,” he said. “She laid eggs and a few weeks later they hatched. Cute little fellows. I guess we let them go, then.”
The prosciutto was pink, thin-sliced, in wavy folds, made him think about sex, about how long it had been.
“Is it true what they say, that the female mantis eats the male after they do it?”
“Yup, sometimes they don’t even wait, the female bites off the male’s head while they are still, um, connected, and the male’s movements become even more, uh, vigorous.” She was blushing.
“Really? That’s so weird. Well, I’m glad I’m not, well, you know, I mean –”
“Yeah, but usually she eats him at the end. The most dangerous time is when he dismounts. They think males who do it longer have a selective advantage because if the female is well satisfied, satiated, I guess you could say, she might be less prone to cannibalize her mate.” She flashed him a quick smile.
“The moral of the story,” he said. “More wine?”