How to Attract Praying Mantises to Your Garden
Praying mantises, or mantids, are the largest insects in your garden. Adults can grow up to 5 inches long. They look frightening, but you want them patrolling your garden. That’s because they are voracious eaters of insects including the ones that can destroy your flowers and crops.
What are Praying Mantises?
Praying mantises are warm region insects. They are found throughout the temperate regions of the world. In all, there are 1800 species. Only 11 of them are found in North America. In addition to the native mantids, both the European mantis and the Chinese mantis were introduced into the Northeast US for insect control.
Mantids range in color from brown to green. Their coloration enables them to blend into the landscape, especially in grasses and shrubbery. You can find them not only in your garden, but also in wilder areas such as pastures, fields and even ditches.
Females lay their eggs in the fall in cases that harden to protect them from the harsh winter weather. The eggs hatch in the spring. The young mature by late summer and then die in the cold winter temperatures.
What do Praying Mantises Eat?
Younger, smaller mantids eat insects exclusively. They have no preferred species. They eat any insects that they can catch including caterpillars, butterflies, moths, bees, wasps and flies. Unfortunately, they also do not discriminate between “good” bugs such lady bugs and “bad” bugs such aphids. They eat everything, even each other if they can’t find anything else to eat.
In the late summer when the mantids have reached their adult size, they branch out to other prey. They have been known to eat lizards, rodents, frogs and even hummingbirds.
How do They Catch a Meal?
Praying mantids are ambush predators. They perch on a stick, grasping it with their middle and hind legs. They sit upright, holding their front legs in the familiar prayer position waiting for a meal to walk or fly by. When an unlucky insect comes within reach, the hungry mantid strikes, impaling the insect on its spiny front legs. This happens literally in the blink of an eye.
Do the Females Really Kill the Males After Mating?
Yes! And it helps the mating process. The female will try to bite off the head of the male because it will stimulate him to copulate. It also prevents him from eating her first. Of course if every male was killed by a female, there wouldn’t be enough males to go around so the males do try to sneak up on the females and quickly inseminate them before jumping away to safety before she has a chance to realize what is going on and eating him.
So How Do I Attract Praying Mantises to My Garden?
Believe it or not, the best way to attract praying mantises to your yard is to plant shrubbery. That’s because the females prefer to lay their eggs in shrubbery to protect them from being eaten by birds. Lots of shrubbery means lots of places for females to conceal their egg cases. In the spring, you will be rewarded with lots of hungry baby mantids eager to rid your yard and garden of insects.
You can help matters along in the spring if you find an egg case by moving it to your garden so that they will hatch where they can do the most good.
© 2017 Caren White