photo by Dave Kozlowski
Common Names: Devil's Horse, Mantid, Praying Mantid
Scientific Name: Order Mantodea, family Mantidae, Mantis spp.
Size: Adult--2" to 3"
Identification: Adults are green, gray, or brown with long bodies, papery wings, and enlarged front legs designed to grasp prey. Eggs are light brown or tan and are usually attached to stems and twigs. Native egg case is thin and hard like papier-mâché. (Be careful not to confuse the egg case with that of the puss caterpillar, a soft hairy insect larva with a powerful sting.)
Biology and Life Cycle: One generation a year. Hibernate in the egg stage. Adult females glue fifty or more eggs together to form an egg case. Wingless nymphs emerge from slits in the side of the egg casing in the spring and feed on larger and larger insects as they grow.
Habitat: Most food and ornamental plants.
Feeding Habits: Nymphs and adults feed on aphids, beetles, bugs, leafhoppers, flies, bees, caterpillars, wasps, butterflies, and anything else that ventures by, including small animals like lizards and snakes--also each other.
Economic importance: Questionable. They are interesting insects but undependable for control of problem insects.
Natural Control: Various insect parasites.
Organic Control: None needed.
Insight: These insects are friendly to people and even make good pets. But they will eat any insect, including their own kind. They like caterpillars, grasshoppers, beetles, and other critters. They are not discriminating and eat beneficial as well as pest insects. However, Malcolm says he has never seen a praying mantis eat a beneficial insect other than old worn-out bees. So they are pretty good pest control helpers. They can even be used indoors.