The Praying Mantis: A Gardener's Friend

Organic Gardening
Praying Mantis

The praying mantis is an odd-looking insect that can be found in many gardens. It has a triangular head which can move in many directions and large eyes. You will typically find it late in summer.

Praying mantis looks odd, and some people are scared of this insect, mainly because of its large eyes and the ability of this animal to seemingly follow your every move. However, praying mantis is not a pest and it's not dangerous in any way. In fact, it is a friend of your garden because it will help you get rid of many garden pests.

Unique Insect

Praying mantis is scientifically known as an orthopterous insect of the family Mantidae. Its close relatives are grasshoppers. It has a slender, pale green body with a triangular head that can be moved in many directions. Its arms are folded across the chest, hence the name "praying mantis". This is the only known insect that can direct its gaze wherever it wishes and to move its head freely in all directions.

The mantis builds uniquely-looking nests using bits and pieces of many materials it can find, including brick, a twig, stone, plant stem, or anything it can find in the garden. After this, it lays the eggs in a way that the heads of the newborns will point toward the doorways in a nest. The eggs are left to hatch on themselves and the mother doesn't come back to check on them.

A Skilled Predator

This insect is not poisonous and can do no harm to humans, so you shouldn't be afraid of it. However, in the insect world, it's known as a deadly killer and a skilled predator. It attacks quickly and is usually successful in catching its prey.

The mantis likes to attack grasshoppers but it preys on other insects, too. It's not afraid to attack insects as big as itself or even bigger. Her prey often includes beetles, grasshoppers, locusts and other insects. For this reason, praying mantis is very useful for humans. Its appetite makes it search for prey constantly and it hunts them down before they can harm our gardens and crops.

That's why praying mantis is considered beneficial for gardens and crops and it should not be killed. It devours a tremendous volume of insects annually and it destroys many pests lurking in your garden. While some people are scared of the mantis because of its unique appearance and its ability to move its head in all directions, this insect is beneficial and should be welcomed in your garden.

Photo credit: Sid Mosdell

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