With the weather looking up in the next week or two and everyone itching to get outside after a long winter, it is a most excellent time to take a stroll around your yard looking for the egg cases from Praying Mantis.
I am aware that not everyone adores these insects quite as I do, but if you gently remind yourself that they are there to help and assist you with pest control around your yard and in your garden, you will soon realize their worth. I’m not sure I could handle a season without having them around.
In the fall, Praying Mantis will lay eggs that look like a Styrofoam shipping pellet but instead of white in color they are an earth brown/tan shade. I typically find these anywhere I have brush around the yard, but also inside of my ornamental grasses, on my butterfly bushes and on multiple shrubs around my house. Last year we even had one that decided to lay one on the rebar trellis that I have.
When you first start looking don’t look up at eye level — most will be in the height range of somewhere between shin and knee high on the average person. If you want to help assure that the eggs survive, arm yourself with a pair of pruners and clip above and below the egg. I take the eggs from there and place them in a bowl in the back of the refrigerator. I can’t say that my family is used to this, but it seems that they have become accustomed to it. The eggs need to stay cools so that they don’t hatch too early in the season.
When left outside in nature, sometimes the eggs will hatch and emerge much too early to have enough of a food source outdoors to survive. In cases such as this, typically the mantis will turn towards each other and dine on their friends. That part does make them seem intimidating, but I have never known a mantis to harm a human. I choose to wait until around the second week of May to bring the eggs that I have saved out doors and release them there. I place the eggs in different areas of my yard, to hopefully ensure that I have pest protection all around me.
Each egg can have up to one hundred mantids inside that will hatch out. I have placed them inside those butterfly hatching enclosures so that I could see when they emerge and then relocate them — but it is pretty time consuming to catch all of them out and place them individually. Especially when they do fine on their own when I just lay the casings outdoors. All throughout the summer I will run into at least one a week, if not more. By the time they are full grown in the fall I tend to notice them more and more.
I still will have pests in my garden that will require me to go out and hand pick them or drop them into a soapy bucket of water, but I would be afraid to imagine how many more I would have if I didn’t have my army of mantis that are patrolling the property.
The best thing to do if you encounter a mantis in your yard is to leave it where it is, unless it is in the path of your lawn mower. In that case just walking towards it may help to shoo it to a safer place. However, praying mantis usually hang out in one spot and wait for an insect to cross their path — so you may need to pick up the mantis or use a shovel to scoop it to help it to safety.
Hopefully we can all realize that sometimes nature provides us with a little extra help in the form of a somewhat creepy looking insect. It is then our job to help them on their mission of keeping our gardens under control.
Sacha Burns is an organic gardener and owner of Sunkissed Organics in Pinola. She may be reached at email@example.com