Preying mantis in your garden

A macro look at  my Preying mantis & fall colors

Art PrintsEarlier this year I started writing about managing pests in your gardens and no I wasn’t writing a real garden piece. I wrote about raising mantids which eat a lot of the nasty insects around your garden.

Mantids just arriving in the world
Mantids newly hatched

Well this spring (once again) I picked up a couple Ootheca egg casings. One I left outside under my maple and oaks. The other I put in a terrarium that I made from lexan. I put in dirt and sat it near the window and set my tripod up and need only to wait until the day time temps started averaging in the 80s.

newly hatched mantids exploring their new surroundings
newly hatched exploring

At the end of June I was rewarded with my mantids hatching. They are very small and you won’t normally notice them. What you may notice is a stringy mass hanging down as they burrow out of the Ootheca (egg casing).

Mantids have a well deserved rep as a carnivore
well deserved rep as a carnivore

They hang there for a while and then after a short period they start exploring their surroundings. I figure I had about 75-100. For the first day or two this is ok but I rapidly found out their nature as carnivores is well deserved.

mantid enjoying lunchSo to keep them from eating themselves, I released a bunch into the garden. I had about 25 left over and I proceeded to find some insects to put in the cage with them. I found a bunch of lime green larva flying bugs and I found the mantids really loved the new food source.

The mantids started growing daily and I released some more into the garden and I was down to 4-5 and as I started running out of the winged larva I tried other insects but they were hard to catch. (it was easier when I was 8 yrs old)

 

The largest of the mantids was hanging on the lid and I got my macro out to find out that she was molting out of her skin. This is when a mantid is most vulnerable to attack.

a three panel shot of the Mantid molting
mantid molting

Pretty soon I was down to one Mantid and I released her to the garden and I wondered if I would see her again.

Fall arrives with a guest

Preying Mantid attracted to my fake fall colors
Preying Mantid attracted to my fake fall colors

Well I had pretty much forgotten about the mantid population in and around my garden this summer. One of my neighbors said she had one again in her decorative grass bush but I didn’t see any sign of her this year. See my pest removal article to see her camouflage in the grass

I was surprised in Oct when I was passing the back door and spotted something out of place. The something turned out to be one of my (I assume one of mine) mantids.

She (I also assume a she as it was very large) was in good health and looks to have fed well over the summer. I photographed her with my macro lens and even my cell phone. The mantid against the bright colors contrasted real nice.

I’ll probably continue to do this each year although I can’t say for sure that having the mantids loose in the garden and woods is helping as I still get a mosquito bite on my deck and the winter moths were back this past week in record numbers… But it is interesting to view the cycle of life around the Preying Mantids.

Jeff “Foliage” Folger

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