Innovative Natural Pest Control Solutions – The Praying Mantis Patrol

praying mantis from India
Praying Mantis from India

Perhaps they should have been called “preying” mantises. Although they are named for the way their forelegs resemble a supplicant in prayer, praying mantises sit atop the insect food chain. For this reason, these carnivorous insects offer effective, natural pest control for the home gardener. Praying mantises are also readily available – they can be found for sale online or at home-and-garden stores.

While chemical pesticides can adversely affect both home gardeners and the life-giving soil in which they plant, praying mantises provide organic pest control that works. In addition to targeting troublesome leaf-eating insects such as grasshoppers and beetles, praying mantises feed on aphids, cockroaches, flies, spiders, bees, and mosquitoes (among others). Basically, mantises will consume any smaller species of pest. So having a platoon of mantises on duty is like having a crack team of border agents on garden patrol.

Chinese Mantis (Tenodera aridifolia sinensis)
Chinese Mantis (Tenodera aridifolia sinensis)

On the other hand, chemical pesticides can harm humans, pets, wildlife, and the environment. A report from the National Academies linked exposure from pesticides to several types of cancer, nervous system disorders, and reproductive problems (including birth defects, stillbirths, and infertility). Pesticide exposure has also been shown to aggravate asthma and allergies, and children tend to be more susceptible to pesticides than adults. Moreover, pesticide leeching and runoff results in chemicals contaminating both groundwater and surface-water supplies, according to a study conducted by the University of Missouri-Columbia. As a result, these chemicals cause collateral damage to species they were never intended to target – including pets, birds, and fish.

One way to avoid chemical pesticides and set up a praying-mantis pest-control system is to raise the creatures at home. Because these exotic-looking insects are fascinating to observe and easy to maintain, praying mantises also make interesting pets. Prospective owners can either buy an adult praying mantis individually or purchase a praying mantis egg sack (called an ootheca). Each ootheca contains between 100 and 400 eggs (enough to safeguard almost any home garden). The life cycle for a Chinese praying mantis – one of the most popular among the 1,800 species – typically spans about one year.

Tenodera aridifolia sinensis adult female
Tenodera aridifolia sinensis adult female

In terms of habitats, praying mantises in captivity need a space at least three to four times as big as they are. Mantis enclosures should have holes in the top and be cross-ventilated. Because mantises in the wild are camouflaged to match their environment, their enclosures should include dirt, grasses, sticks, and leaves accordingly. Enclosures should also be kept warm and humid – daily misting of the area with water will help to achieve the appropriate conditions.

Praying Mantis Tenodera sinensis
Praying Mantis Tenodera sinensis

Whether they are to be kept as pets or for pests – or both – praying mantises are a captivating lot. In the world of natural pest control, these monkish creatures have few peers. To learn more praying-mantis facts, or to start a collection, look online or visit a home-and-garden store.

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