Friday, September 21, 2007

Praying Mantis Rumors Dispelled

Nearly every morning I drink my coffee in front of the window and as a fun challenging game, I try to spot the mantids on the flowers. (Do you see the one on the sunflower above and on the verbena below?) I also do this so I can keep an eye on them during the day in case they catch their prey.

For some reason I have a lot of praying mantids in my flower gardens. I was glad to see them early in the spring because I thought them to be very beneficial insects. I was very pleased when saw them on my shrubs eating smaller bugs and harmful insects.

As they got larger they were no longer content to eat the smaller bugs and began stalking larger prey. I've worked diligently this year to attract butterflies and hummingbirds to my flower gardens, planting specific things to attract them. So I wasn't at all pleased to see the praying mantis stalking the things that were bringing me so much delight and were also beneficial pollinators as well. The mantis that seemed intent on stalking the hummingbirds, that I posted about in the link above, met her untimely demise after being knocked off the hummingbird feeder with a broom five times and seeing her attempt it for the sixth time. It was determined to catch a hummingbird but I was more determined that it did not.

I mentioned the feeder incident to my neighbor and she asked me if I had killed the mantis, I told her that I had. She proceeded to tell me that it is illegal, in the state of Indiana to kill a praying mantis. She said when her children were in school they did a bug collecting project and were not allowed to collect mantids because the teacher said it was illegal to do so. I had not heard this before, so I did a Google and found that this is an urban legend that has been around since the 1950's. It is not illegal, nor has it ever been illegal, to capture or kill a praying mantis.

In my search on the mantis I also ran across another rumor. My picture of the mating mantids above proves this one is not true. The female does not rip the males head off to initiate mating. I do wish I had checked back on these two to see if she ate him afterwards. I have read that this also is a rare occurrence for mantids in the wild, and usually only those females in captivity do this to ensure they have enough nourishment for their young.
This mantis was also promptly relieved of her gardening duties after being caught with a butterfly.
There was so much controversy over my post about feeding hummingbirds, that I have hesitated doing this post on the praying mantis for fear that some will be upset that I actually killed a few. As several people told me in the hummingbird post, this is my yard and I should have in it what I want. I have decided the praying mantis is not welcome here, they are not well behaved guests, instead they are pests.


Carol said...

I can't imagine that a praying mantis would eat a hummingbird? I've never heard or seen that. I do know they'll catch the occasional butterfly. Mostly I let the insects be and let them do their thing whatever that is. But sometimes I'm the predator. Just depends on what they are doing and what they are eating or stinging.

Carol at May Dreams Gardens

Robin's Nesting Place said...

Carol, They can and do eat hummingbirds. I had to see it to believe it too.

ginger said...

We have had tons of praying manti in our yard this summer too, and when we took one with us to the pet shop the other day, another customer gave us the song and dance about how they are endangered and you aren't supposed to kill them. I wish I had known it wasn't true.

When my mother was here, she and my oldest son caught two different manti, and had fun for a week, then I made him release them! said...

I found a 31/2 inch female mantis on my balcony..11th floor...have had it almost 3 has refused to try to catch any live insect or worm i have offered but has thrived on moist cat food, yogurt,bananas etc....but it now has a a large abdomen (just the last 3 days)...maybe ready to pass has been a very interesting tame pet..even cat friendly if cat is closely watched...anyone else had a feeding expearance like this?? Helen

Anonymous said...

Yeah its true, I keep mantids and I know they can and will eat birds if they get a chance. Of course mine don't get the chance, they are just kept for my indoor garden.

I would choose mantids over birds anyday ;). Birds are the real pests with their noises and chirps.

Btw for those that don't know, mantids in the outdoors can grow 6" or more, and will take down lizards, frogs, snakes, birds etc.