Praying Mantises as Natural Pesticides
The beautifully sculpted praying mantis is the perfect garden patroller. It is designed to kill prey up to three times its size. No insect is safe from the cannibalistic mantis, which will just as readily eat another of its kind as it would any other prey. Since there are nearly 2,000 different species of praying mantises ranging from one centimeter in length to a full 12 inches, and all are camouflage experts, even birds, frogs, snakes, and small rodents are not safe from the insect world's most famous master of deception.
The Mantis Warrior
Mantises are ambush artists that blend into their environment seamlessly. A praying mantis doesn't generally lie in wait for its prey; it actively hunts it down. Because the mantis blends into the foliage so well, insects don't even see the mantis until they have already become dinner. The mantis effectively stalks its prey with large compound eyes that are made up of 10,000 smaller eyes. It sways its head from side to side to determine the size of its target, and once it has made its target it's only a matter of moving into striking distance. The mantis strikes with blinding speed. In half the time it takes for a human to blink, its razor sharp front legs have already securely grasped its squirming prey. The praying mantis shows no mercy. Preliminaries, such as waiting for its prey to die before it begins eating, are not taken into consideration by this predator.
Life Cycle of the Praying Mantis
The praying mantis, generally a small three to four inches in North America, begins life in an egg case along with 100 to 400 siblings. The ootheca or egg case starts out as foam, filled with eggs. After it hardens it resembles a piece of Styrofoam shaped like a human brain. Baby mantises are hungry when they emerge and will devour anything that moves, including their own siblings, in order to curb their insatiable hunger. As the mantis grows, it sheds its skin numerous times until maturity. The female mantis is much larger than the male. These insects don't live long after mating. Indeed, the male often doesn't live beyond mating. If the female is in a bad mood, she has no qualms about biting off her lover's head, during copulation. Thankfully, evolution is aware of this and has ensured the proliferation of the species by making sure the male's beheaded body will continue copulation. As a mantis matures, it eats insects that are small enough for it to capture. In the beginning, a mantis will eat aphids, mosquitoes and leafhoppers. As it grows, it will move on to larger and larger meals, including beetles, potato bugs, spiders, cabbage moths and grasshoppers. Since the praying mantis is not selective, it shows no mercy to beneficial bugs or other small creatures in the garden. But when you think in terms of how many bad bugs a praying mantis can devour in one summer, and the fact that no chemicals need be added to your garden, then you know using praying mantises as natural pesticides is not only the right thing to do, it's the most natural thing in the world.
Mantises as Pesticides
Before obtaining praying mantises for your garden, be sure to look into your state's laws regarding this practice. Once you know that it is legal, getting mantids for your garden is as easy as going online and purchasing a case of eggs. The recommendation is to buy the eggs in the winter or early spring, and place them in the garden. They will hatch as the weather gets warmer. It is best not to place too many eggs cases in one garden, as it will not necessarily increase the number of mantises that live there. Praying mantises tend to move away from each other to sustain their needs for food and living space.