Sunday, July 7, 2013

Praying Mantis babies!

This post is overdue, I took the photos at the end of May.  They still may be educational.

Look closely!  What you are seeing is newly hatched praying mantises on strawberry plants.  They were about a centimeter long.  There are two in the one below, but the second is blurry.  Sorry about that.

I was able to tell they were newly hatched because there were so many among the plants.  Within a day or two after hatching they begin to disperse throughout the area in search of food.  They grow rapidly and reach adult size by the end of summer.  In this area, around September or so they lay their eggs, which are housed in a foamy-looking papery case, usually attached to a twig.  See below.

Be on the lookout for these in your garden while pruning.  If you find one, leave it in place and prune that section the following summer.  You want these guys in your garden.  Not only do they look awesome, but they are predatory insects, making meals of such undesirable things as grasshoppers and stink bugs when larger, as youngsters of course they must select bugs more appropriate to their size.

Predatory insects you should be kind to:
  • Lady Bugs and several other tiny round beetle like critters that eat aphids, mealybugs, etc.  Familiarize yourself especially with what young ladybugs look like - nymphs are very different.
  • Praying mantis
  • Assassin Bugs or Cog Bugs - do look this one up, they are very creepy looking
  • Centipedes and Millipedes - I generally want to mash centipedes, but I have personally witnessed them at the hunt, so I tolerate them.
  • Spiders of all kinds!  Seriously, spiders are awesome, and contrary to paranoid beliefs of many they are not out to get you.  Do, however, feel free to mash black widow and brown recluse spiders, but familiarize yourself with how they look to prevent unnecessary deaths.
There are many others, of course, and likely you are aware of some or all of these.  But it bears repeating - these will be of assistance to you.  Encouraging them takes time, and pesticides can kill your friends as well as undesirables.  Also meadow and other 'wild' garden spaces provide the territory for them to establish and thrive.  A "well tended" lawn is essentially a desert.

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