The warmth of spring brings out the start of the gardening season as well as many leaf-and-stem-eating insects. Many times, it seems as soon as you get a handle on one bug, a different one shoots up and munches on all your hard work. It sounds tempting and easy to turn to a wide-spectrum insecticide, but they come with many negative side effects to our beneficial bugs, honeybees, human health, and the environment as a whole. The praying mantis is one of the most recognized of those beneficial insects. While they are pleasing to look at and fun to watch, the praying mantis is not to be underestimated. It is an apex predator in the bug world and adding them to your homestead will fill in an important role in your garden pest control system.
Let’s examine the praying mantis’ weapon arsenal from top to bottom to see all the benefits it can provide.
A point could be made that praying mantises do not know the difference between good bugs and pests. When praying mantises hatch out of their egg case, they are a tiny army of eating machines that are not dependent on flowers and pollen for their food. The hungry tiny mantises are instead ready to devour grubs, aphids, and egg-laying moths to name just a few. Knowing they will enjoy clearing your plants of the insects such as nasty Japanese beetles is a reason to dance. Especially in your rose gardens.
The Chinese praying mantis is an invasive species that was introduced to the United States in 1896 as pest control to eliminate the gypsy moth. Sadly—as is usually the case when outside species are brought into an environment—what sounded like a good idea goes very wrong.
The Chinese praying mantis (Tenodera sinensis)is larger and stronger than the U.S. native Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis Carolina). These differences make competing for food very one-sided. The establishment of the Chinese mantis for over 100 years has allowed it to be on the top of the food chain. Although there is a small population of true Carolina mantis still in the wild, in many places the native mantis no longer exists.
Homesteaders and gardeners alike will want to familiarize themselves with the differences between the Carolina mantis and the Chinese mantis to ensure they’re not introducing a harmful invasive species to their piece of land.
So how do you introduce praying mantis to your gardens? There are many internet gardening, seed, and supply sites that mail order. This makes ordering praying mantis is simple and affordable.
Since the egg cases come ready to hatch, you need to have a plan already in place before they arrive. Having them hatch inside your house or car is not a good experience.
Here are some hints to make your new recruits happy in their new home:
As late autumn comes and the last of the leaves fall to the ground, the praying mantis changes focus from eating to mating. After mating, the female will wrap the moist egg sac on a small branch or twig and these egg cases will harden into a durable material that will protect them through the winter. Although the lives of the adult mantis are now over, their young will be ready to hatch a new generation again in the next year.
This year, don’t let all your hard work be munched away one bite at a time. Introduce these predators into your gardens and know they are busy devouring problem insects such as leaf-, stem-, and bloom-eating insects. Introducing praying mantis on your homestead will save your gardens while actually helping the environment.
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