Archive for September 26th, 2011

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Why You Shouldn’t Kill a Mantis

September 26, 2011

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I’ve heard it said that praying mantids (plural/refers to entire group) are a sign of good fortune. Since I’ve spotted four or five the past couple of months, I expect an incredible future in and around my garden, and in my life. How about you? Have you spotted a mantis (singular) lately?

This California mantis clung to my screen door for three weeks. Its milky-white color indicates that it just completed one of the ten molting stages mantids undergo before achieving adult size.

Here is a California mantis creeping along the garage floor. I left the mantis to find the nearby plants where it will prey on bad and good bugs:  grasshoppers, ants, moths, crickets, gnats, mealworms, grubs, termites, maggots, katydids, aphids, most flies, mosquitos, butterflies, ladybugs, spiders, worms.

Mantids Facts:

  • TypeBug
  • DietCarnivore. Mantids sometimes eat the male while matting or immediately after.
  • Average life span:  In the wild, 12 months. In captivity, up to 14 months.
  • Size: ½ – 6 inches (1.2 to 15 cm) long. In 1929 in Southern China, the world’s largest mantis measured at about 18 inches long.
  • Color:  Green or brown for camouflaging as they wait to ambush prey.

Other Interesting Facts:

  • More than 2,000 different species exist worldwide.
  • There are no ‘praying’ mantids in California.
  • Mantids were named for their “prayer-like” stance.
  • Mantids do not have a larval phase. They are born fully formed as nymphs.
  • Mantids can turn their heads 180 degrees to scan their surroundings with two large compound eyes with three simple eyes between.
  • They use their front legs to snare prey and can crush their prey in half.
  • Their legs have spikes to help snare and pin their prey.
  • Female praying mantids mate in late summer and lay hundreds of eggs in a small case in autumn.
  • Mantids live in all parts of the world where there’s mild winters and sufficient vegetation.
  • Male mantids are attracted to artificial lights and often fly at night making them a good meal for bats.
    • If threatened, mantids will make themselves appear larger by standing upright with their forelegs spread, wings fanned wide, and mouths open.
    • In some states, killing a mantis is against the law because they are a natural mosquito control.

Tip:  When doing your fall pruning, look for mantids eggs on branches, twigs, walls, fences or eaves. If possible, don’t prune the branch or place it in a protective area of the garden, off the ground where ants quickly consume them. Follow the same procedure if you remove mantids eggs from a wall. The nymphs will survive.

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