Are praying mantises truly a benefit for your garden? Although it is true that they feed on a number of bad insects you don’t want in your garden; they also eat good insects, too.
The bad guys these critters target include leafhoppers, aphids, flies, crickets, grasshoppers, spiders, small tree frogs, lizards, and mice. However, the good insects they devour include lacewings, ladybugs, hover flies, and butterflies. They are even aggressive enough to take on hummingbirds.
The main things that make them ideal predators are their color, their head, and their front limbs that appear like they’re praying.
Their green color allows them to lay in wait in camouflage, their head can turn 180°, and their innocent-looking front limbs act quickly to catch insects and other creatures into a tight vise, immobilizing them to be eaten.
Other Facts About Praying Mantises
Although most praying mantises inhabit tropical areas, about 18 of the 2,000 species of mantises actually reside in North America. The Chinese mantis was introduced near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania about 80 years ago and is 100mm in length. The European mantis were introduced near Rochester, New York about a century ago, are pale green, and about half the size of the Chinese mantis.
They have a flexible joint between their head and prothorax that allows them to swivel their heads. They also have two large, compound eyes, but some only have one ear located on the underside of its belly, making it difficult for them to discern the direction of sound or its frequency. They sense ultrasound produced by bats that allows them to avoid them by stopping, dropping, rolling in midair and dive-bombing away. Those praying mantises that do not have an ear commonly do not fly.
They are closely related to cockroaches and termites and female mantises lay their eggs in the fall and secrete a Styrofoam-like material over them as a form of protection. This permits the eggs to develop through the winter when shrubs and trees are bare.
Attracting Praying Mantises To Your Garden
If the fact that a praying mantis also consumes some good insects doesn’t bother you, then there are things you can do to attract these critters to your yard.
Foremost, they favor organically grown gardens that include roses and raspberry, tall grasses and shrubbery. If you find mantis egg cases away from the garden, cut the branch a few inches below the egg and transfer to the garden. You can also purchase mantis egg cases from retailers.
The egg case looks like a tan or cream ridged cocoon that is attached lengthwise to a branch. The case may be long and flat or rounded.
You can also catch adult mantises and release them in your garden.