Praying For Prey

All help in pest management at the Fairegarden is welcome. There is nary a leaf that does not have some kind of hole or damage from the ravages of bug vandalism.

Knowing the good guys from the bad guys is beyond our scope of knowledge, however, for the most part.

Except for one very distinctive insect, the Praying Mantis.

The Mantids are very well disguised by nature. They seem nearly invisble unless one happens to be carefully studying the foliage or flowers of a plant and just stumbles upon this regal bug.

The Mantids are born looking just like fully mature adults, only smaller.

They begin as green, to better blend, then turn to brown as the year progresses. By fall, the females can grow quite large, and will eat their mate after consummating their relationship. Poor fellow.

Egg cases are formed and will remain attached to branches over the winter, until the warmth of spring triggers the birth.

Then the cycle starts all over again. (Photo, taken by my dear friend Laurie, can be clicked upon to enlarge.)


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21 Responses to Praying For Prey

  1. I did not realise there were no larva stages. The more one learns about insects, the more there is to know… now dragonflies::::: I once met an expert on dragonflies. I was enchanted! :0

    Hi Jack, they are so cute, emerging as tiny versions of the adults. Once I was sitting on a bench under the arbor at our first TN house and there was a hatching from above me. Many babies fell down on my son and me, we didn’t know what the heck was going on! We have many dragonflies, but I have yet to get a decent shot of them to post. Will keep trying.

  2. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    For goodness sakes Frances. That last photo is fabulous. I find the egg cases here every winter it seems but I have never seen them come out. What luck seeing this. I usually get so busy in the garden that I forget to look at the egg cases in spring. They usually put their egg cases in the front garden where I don’t go much. Great post.

    Thanks Lisa. I agree, that photo is phenomenal. It was taken by my friend Laurie and was used in a previous post or two. I should add that to this post. I have witnesses a hatching, see the response to Jack’s comment. It was pre-digital camera.

  3. Barbara H. says:

    How fascinating! This was amazing, Frances. I had no idea about the life cycle and your pictures just blew me away.

    Thanks Barbara. It is always a surprise when we stumble upon the mantids, they blend so well with the surroundings. Now is the time when the females are larger and can be spotted more easily. We love having them in the garden.

  4. Randy Anderson says:

    I wish they would eat Japanese Beatles instead of the Monarchs and Tiger Swallowtails. I find wings of there lunches through out the garden. I never killed them when I see them eating there pretties but I’m sad realizing I won’t see that pretty butterfly in my garden again. I hope they were able to leave some eggs to repopulate the garden for next year.

    Thanks Randy, for adding in here. The mantids are not selective about what they eat, unfortunately. Nature can be harsh.

  5. Layanee says:

    I haven’t seen one of these other worldly looking creatures yet but I have plenty of holes in leaves. Bring them on

    Thanks Layanee, for stopping by. This is a bad year for holey leaves!

  6. Randy Emmitt says:


    Your friends photo at the end is really cool. I’m seeing lots of mantises and large robberflies near the beehive, sometimes with bees in their clutches.

    Thanks Randy. My friend Laurie was at the right place with her camera, for sure! The mantids do not care if their dinner is a good guy or bad guy, unfortunately.

  7. Sarah says:

    I had always admired mantids until I saw one sitting on my hummng bird feeder. While I watched he captured a hummer with his front legs and droppped into a group of holly ferns while holding the bird–where I never found either. Now I keep a close eye on the feeders.

    That is a most horrifying story, Sarah. The mantids here do not get large enough to catch the size of hummers here, but never say never.

  8. They are voracious predators and will eat most anything, but I never heard of them eating hummers. Like Assassin Bugs, they often get pollinators, but I figure it’s all the circle of life. They are naturally in my garden here and there.~~Dee

    It is the circle of life, to be sure, Dee. I appreciate the bad bugs the mantids do get, and try to ignore any good guys that get caught. We have seen them with slow moving butterflies, but nature has its own idea of good and bad.

  9. I got praying mantis here and there in my garden and lady bugs too and when I see either I reckon I’m lucky to have them visiting me. I don’t use any insecticide sprays or poisons in my gardena at all and I figure if let nature take it’s course the good guys will keep the good guys in check. And for the most part it’s turned out that way and I’m happy with the results. The birds pitch in and help too. I ain’t never seen any of them egg cases but I’m going to keep an eye out for them now…..Again thanks for the post I always enjoy my visits here, I’m either inspired or learn something new and useful every time I drop by here. One other thing, If the good guys keep the bad guys in check out in the world as well as in the garden,well things might be looking up all over……:-)

    Thanks Paul. Life is harsh sometimes, for insects, birds and people. We try to co-exist with them all. Sometimes it is a trial.

  10. I just posted on facebook the trauma of seeing a manits grab a silver spotted skipper, who struggled violently. The mantis immediately began eating it like it was corn on the cob or watermelon. I felt terrible, especially with so few butterflies this year, but knew a mantis meant the garden was in good shape overall. Alas.

    We have seen the mantids catch butterflies and it is indeed, hard to watch. Nature is harsh.

  11. Kathy says:

    Do a search for praying mantis eating hummingbird and you will see plenty of photos and even videos of it happening. I was astounded the first time I saw that.

    Thanks Kathy, for that link, but I don’t think I want to see it. Or even think about such a thing. Our mantids are not that large to be able to catch a hummer. The birds here stay quite high in the air and I have taken the feeder down.

  12. Leanne says:

    Once again your photos are stunning.

    Thanks so much, Leanne.

  13. I don’t think there’s a cooler bug, but I definitely don’t want to see one eating a hummer.

    My feelings exactly, MMD.

  14. They appear all over my bronze fennel every spring and wait for the Black Swallowtail Butterflies who lay eggs on the fennel. I’m even thinking of coming up with a different host plant as fennel seems like a death trap now.

    I am happy to report these were not on larval food. I would hate to lose the black swallowtails. There are large catts on the fennel now. None on the parsley that I can see, yet.

  15. Laurie says:

    You’ve given me another moment of glory on your blog and brought back the
    excitement of the day I timed an after-school garden ramble
    perfectly. No matter how many other moments I’ve missed.. I
    was fortunate to catch that one.

    They are amazing creatures, aren’t they?

    Dear Laurie, Thank you once again for sending this fabulous photo of nature at its best. They are indeed amazing.

  16. Lola says:

    I just keep learning more & more as I read your blog. It is fascinating to see nature at work. Thank you.

  17. I have had just about every insect and bug in my garden this year, but I have not seen a Praying Mantis, Your photos are wonderful!


  18. Steven says:

    I hatched 2 Mantis egg cases here in the greenhouse at the store I work at and and had a jar full of babies. Of course I took some home and put them in the gardens. Last year I came across one on the side of the house, I find them to be awesome little creatures.

  19. Lyn says:

    Mantis babies are incredibly cute! Last spring we kept finding them in the kitchen. We shepherded them gently outside except for one that my son kept as a pet for a few months. He caught insects (live) and released them into the mantis tank. The mantis shed its skin a few times, then he eventually let it go into the garden. There were mantises everywhere all summer, and very few destructive insects. Now (Winter here) I can see egg cases all over the place,so am expecting lots more of these predators in a couple of months. Thanks for sharing such wonderful photos.

  20. Christina says:

    Great post about the Praying Mantis, Frances! Sure not my favorite insect regarding the looks, but you don’t choose your friends by their looks either and Preaying Mantis are definitively the gardener’s friends ;-)! The last photo of the baby Praying Mantis’ leaving the egg case is amazing! Thanks!

  21. Leslie says:

    I had always heard that the color of a mantis depended on the habitat color as well as moisture level of the garden, which would perhaps relate to habitat color. I’m going to be on the look out to see what the mantids here look like this year as the summer progresses. I’ve sen both green and brown of various sizes in the past. These are great photos! What I love about photographing mantids is that they watch you so closely.

    Thanks! I think you are right, Leslie. Maybe the brown color comes from the surrounding foliage going into a decline at this time of year. The mantids are fascinating to me.

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