Monday, August 29, 2011

Praying Mantis

How Disney-friendly this praying mantis looks!  Her compound eyes are so arranged that you would swear she has pupils -- and that they are following you around the garden as she chats cheerfully with you about the goings on in the bug world and the shenanigans of her brood of tiny nymphs.

But this side view might make you a little more suspicious of her character.  As you look at the strong arms and jaws, the reptilian-esque shape of the head, you are less surprised to find out that she's an aggressive killing machine.

All insects are in danger around her; crickets, moths, flies, spiders, beneficial garden insects or pests,  even other mantids, just might get their heads ripped off if they come too close.

I'm glad I'm so much bigger than she is.  Even so, I kept expecting her to snatch me with those lightning fast legs, or fly into me with a chitinous blur of crunchy buzzing wings.  EEEEEK!!!

My husband found Lizzie while cutting the grass and put her on my Viburnum dentatum (I rooted that in Horticulture class last spring!, excuse the digression.)  There she was willing to stay for quite some time as I took her picture.  She's a coquette, isn't she?

Now is the best time to look for mantids, apparently.  In August and September, check your flowering plants and porch lights and you might find them.

Because praying mantises consume so many garden insects, many people release them into their gardens to help with pests.  You can buy eggs from Carolina Biological Supply and hatch them yourself.  Incidentally, birds and bats eat mantids. has all sorts of information about mantids and some interesting videos as well.  You can find out how to keep them as pets, too, if you're so inclined.


  1. What fantastic pictures! And great information about the mantids. I'm going to be looking for them in my garden.

  2. Oh what lovely pictures. I'm going to see if I can find any tomorrow.....

  3. thanks ginny and jessica! i hope you find some. Lizzie was still in the same vicinity when i went out and looked yesterday. my husband tried to feed her a palmetto bug, but she was probably full from hanging out all day at the zinnia insect smorgasbord!