Praying Mantis: Beneficial or Not?

Praying Mantis: Beneficial or Not

Hatching praying mantis can be a fun and educational introduction to raising garden insects, but are they beneficial or not?

Fun Facts About Praying Mantis
-They see in 3D.
-They can turn head side to side & 180 degrees
-They commonly camouflage themselves
-They are cannibals
-2400+ species of praying mantis
-Some species grow to 5″ in length

Are Praying Mantis Popular?
Praying mantis have long captured people’s interest. Today is no different as more monthly internet searches are for praying mantis (81,700 monthly volume) than butterflies (75,300 monthly volume). Seen as a sort of apex predator of the insect world, praying mantis are popularly raised as pets with fruit fly cultures and cricket hatchlings available for sale as food.

Are Praying Mantis Beneficial Insects?
Although the praying mantis is one of the most widely recognized insects that benefit the gardener, they are generalists that will eat other beneficial insects and each other. “Because they are general feeders, they aren’t very effective for pest control, said Don Shor Owner at Redwood Barn Nursery in Davis, California. “They eat everything they can grab, including bees, syrphid flies, and each other. I don’t recommend releasing them, but do feel that their natural presence in your garden is an indication of a healthy ecosystem.”

Commercial plant growers use a wide variety of beneficial insects in their operations. They tend to do so with insect species such as ladybugs, lacewings, and assassin bugs. “I like biologicals as an Integrated Pest Management tool, but I wouldn’t choose mantids first, said Jenny Enchayan, entomologist and owner of Freed Brothers Farms in Loomis, Nebraska. “The nymphs aren’t very reliable eaters or survivors, and only a couple out of the thousands that hatch survive to adulthood. But as an entomologist, it’s important to know which pests you are having issues with and on what crops to give the proper recommendations. Without specifics, ladybeetles, Orius, and lace bugs are good for aphids. There are a few species of mites good for spider mites and thrips.”

What is Integrated Pest Management?
The Integrated Pest Management mentioned by Enchavan is a science-based method of controlling plant pests. “IPM is an ecosystem-based strategy that focuses on long-term prevention of pests or their damage through a combination of techniques such as biological control, habitat manipulation, modification of cultural practices, and use of resistant varieties,” according to the University of California. “Biological control is the use of natural enemies—predators, parasites, pathogens, and competitors—to control pests and their damage. Invertebrates, plant pathogens, nematodes, weeds, and vertebrates have many natural enemies.”

credit CropWalk

Whether praying mantis are beneficial or not can depend on your perspective. The majority of praying mantis available for sale are non-native and they will eat beneficial insects along with pest species and each other. However, we continue to marvel over them.

What do I need to raise my own Praying Mantis?
If deciding to raise praying mantis their egg cases (Ootheca) are seasonally available from Arbico Organics. Cricket cages are available in a variety of sizes to hatch and raise hatchlings. The cricket cage cover can be covered with stocking nylon that’s a small enough mesh to retain the mantids and prey. Fruit flies, Drosophila species are available and many pet stores that are a good food source for the mantids can be secured in the nylon-covered cricket cages.

Group of young mantids too young to eat each other pictured above taken at the Earth Works Garden Center. Wrapped around each other and in squatting positions some arch their tails like scorpions.

For comprehensive solutions to your specific lawn, garden, and landscaping need, contact Earth Works of Jacksonville online or at 904-996-0712. Earth Works operates a retail Garden Center/Plant Nursery with Florida Fancy palm stock in Jacksonville and provides landscaping, hardscaping, water features, lawn care service, lawn spraying, and drainage solutions. 

Earth Works proudly serves clients in Northeast Florida, including Jacksonville, Ponte Vedra Beach, Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach, Jacksonville Beach, Nocatee, St. Johns, Fleming Island, Orange Park, Middleburg, Green Cove Springs, Amelia Island, Fernandina, and St. Augustine.