Plan hatched to help homeless in Calgary

A Calgary family is raising money to fight homelessness through good old fashioned sales — but instead of the typical lemonade stand, Tara Guthrie and her five-year-old son, Alexander, are selling praying mantises for $10 each.

Family selling praying mantises to raise money for Inn From the Cold

Alexander Farn displays a praying mantis. The five year old is selling them for charity. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

A Calgary family is raising money to fight homelessness through sales at a good old-fashioned stand in the front yard.

But instead of the typical lemonade or baked goods up for grabs, Tara Guthrie and her five-year-old son, Alexander Farn, are selling praying mantises.

Alexander Farn, 5, and his mother Tara Guthrie handle one of the praying mantises they are selling as a charity fundraiser. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

"He wanted to raise money for Lego … because it's expensive," said Guthrie, who offered to help her son raise money.

"[Alexander] said, 'Well, let's do a lemonade stand,' and I said, 'Well, lemonade isn't going to get you very far.'"

She suggested selling insects as pets to try and bring in more cash.

"We just decided maybe it would be cool if we could try to raise some baby praying mantises, that they'd be good kid pets, instead of just letting them go in the garden," said Guthrie.

This praying mantis egg was purchased from an online retailer and hatched about 200 insects. Around 100 survived. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

Guthrie opted to donate half the money they brought in to charity, and after young Alexander said he wanted to help children without homes, they opted to direct the money to Calgary's Inn from the Cold.

"Our goal was to raise money for three things. Number one, Minecraft Lego. Number two, bank account. And number three, Inn from the Cold," said Alexander.

They purchased a mantis egg online from Costco in February, with about 100 surviving out of the 200 insects that hatched.

Alexander Farn, 5, and his mother Tara Guthrie worked together to sell dozens of praying mantises to raise money for charity. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

"Some of them died …  and some of them ate each other. Some. I only saw one [eat another]," explained Alexander.

According to Guthrie, the overall expenses were low, with supply costs of around $150. Each praying mantis sold for $10. Out of 100 up for grabs, less than two dozen were still available by Monday.

Alexander Farn, 5, sells praying mantises in downtown Calgary on Canada Day 2018. (Tara Guthrie)

"They don't bite, they don't scratch. They're very gentle. They're not the same kind of bug as most bugs. They don't jump and … they don't scare people," said Guthrie.

Alexander, who is set to begin kindergarten in September, believes the praying mantis sales will be a big help to both Inn from the Cold and those who are making a purchase.

"The praying mantis are really cool … They're great pets," said Alexander.

As of Monday, they had raised more than $500 for charity.


Anis Heydari

Senior Reporter

Anis Heydari is a senior business reporter at CBC News. Prior to that, he was on the founding team of CBC Radio's "The Cost of Living" and has also reported for NPR's "The Indicator from Planet Money." He's lived and worked in Edmonton, Edinburgh, southwestern Ontario and Toronto, and is currently based in Calgary. Email him at