Friday, July 25, 2008

Mantids...predators of the garden

Since I covered a "creepy" bug last week, I decided to go with one that everyone generally likes to have around.

Mantids are easily recognized by their elongated thorax and specialized, raptorial front legs that are use to capture prey. They also have large compound eyes and a neck that can swivel 180 degrees. Mantids are generalist predators that will capture and eat a wide variety of small prey. They really don't differentiate between "good" and "bad" bugs, so they are best to conserve when you see them in the garden, but augment the population as they are cannibalistic and will also often bee seen eating honey bees.

After mating, females lay eggs in a frothy egg case on twigs, vines or other locations. The frothy egg case eventually hardens which will help protect the eggs throughout the winter. In the spring, small mantids (nymphs) will emerge from the egg case. It's actually rather interesting to watch as the first mantid out gets a meal delivered to them when the next nymph comes out of the egg case.
If you have kids who like bugs, or are interested yourself, you can either collect an egg case that you find or buy one from the store to watch the little guys and gals come out. If it's warm enough outside, you can release them into the backyard to have a go at it. If it's too cold outside for them to survive, you can keep them in a 10 gallon fish tank and feed them insects (pinhead crickets work great while they're small). Remember, they are cannibalistic, so don't forget to feed them!

5 comments:

Lancashire rose said...

I'm so glad Pam posted a link to your blog. Knowing the bugs in the garden is an important part of gardening and I am always trying to identify the bugs we have. We have had the cicada killers and tarantula killer sand even had baby mantids in the house. The egg case was on my citrus and they were running all over the place. I tried to pick them up on sheets of paper! Incredible little miniatures.

Bob said...

I also saw your blog on Pam's site. It is just great. I read the whole thing, all the way back and all of it is great. I have some interest in bugs and want to know more and like observing them to know more about them. If you could go to my blog at Dracogardens.blogspot and look at a beetle I found in my garden and let me know what it is. I think it is a type of Rhinocerus beetle but am not sure. If you dont have time, dont worry with it as it can remain a mystery. Bob

Wizzie Brown said...

Bob-

I checked out your blog and the beetle is a unicorn/ hercules beetle (a type of rhinocerous beetle).

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

Great bug profile. I've got to say though that mantids give me the creeps too, although I know they're necessary for the garden. I love that you showed the mantid egg case. I guess it is a bug eat bug world.~~Dee

Anonymous said...

They also catch humming birds. One sat on my feeder for days until the hummers became used to him being there, then reached up and caught one. They fell into a bed of ferns and I could not find either one. So if one is on your humming bird feeder, move him elsewhere,
Sally