The Praying Mantis is an interesting and enjoyable beneficial insect to have in the garden and can be used in conjunction with all other beneficial insects. It’s the only known insect that can turn its head and look over its shoulder. Mantis lie in wait for their food and when close enough, snap it up with a lightning movement of their strong front legs. Praying mantis is a general predator of most pest insects including mites, eggs, or any insect in reach. Each praying mantis egg case contains about 200 baby mantis.
These super beneficial insects have enormous appetites, eating various aphids, leaf hoppers, mosquitoes, caterpillars and other soft-bodied insects when young. They also eat larger insects such as beetles, grasshoppers, and crickets. Praying mantises are large, solitary, slow moving, and catch their prey with their front legs. They do not have jumping hind legs. Though they look a bit ferocious, they can make interesting pets. We’re told some will even eat raw meat and insects from your fingers. With plenty to eat they usually will not stray far. If handled properly they don’t bite.
Praying mantis and/or their egg cases are found in many gardens but can be difficult to locate by just looking at plants because of their camouflage. To find adults, look on flowering plants and at porch lights in warm weather. Adult males will often fly to porch lights in the late fall. Home vegetable and flower gardens that are organic or where no insecticides have been used may be a good place to look.
When introducing mantis to your garden the egg cases can be attached to twigs, leaves, fences, and other vegetation with twine or a wire tie, or they may be placed in the crotch of a bush or tree. Do not place on ground, as they become easy prey for ants. Releases can begin after the last frost and continue through summer.
Egg cases do best in a warm location with filtered sunlight. A hanging, swinging egg case is safer from birds and other predators. It will take about 10 to 15 days of continuous warm weather for them to hatch. When hatching the young will crawl from between the tiny flaps in the egg cases and hang from silken threads about 2″ below the case. After drying out, the long legged young disappear into the vegetation around the area, leaving little if any trace of their hatching. This happens within an hour or two and it is difficult to know hatching has occurred unless the elusive, well camouflaged young are found.