Monday, January 21, 2008
I know it's been quite some time since I last posted and I apologize. Frankly, there hasn't been much going on in the garden over the past month or so and I'm really just now getting over early January's post-holiday hump. It's been cold here the past few days - in the low teens during the early morning and not warming much past the mid-twenties by afternoon. Wisconsin-ites may scoff at such toasty winter temps, but here in Pennsylvania such cold days have been few and far between the past few years. Global warming strikes again.
As I sit at my computer and look out the window, I can see a nice little treasure that I discovered just a week or two ago. Clinging to the branch of one of the Lawson's cypress we planted this past spring is a praying mantis egg case. I was so pleased to find it since I did not see a single adult mantis in the garden the entire summer. I can't wait to see all the babies this spring. What amazing creatures they are. Here is some information about praying mantids from my forthcoming book. As I said in an earlier post, I learned a lot while researching the book and here are some interesting little tidbits:
- There are over 20 native species of mantids found throughout the U.S. with many others introduced.
- An adult praying mantis can grow to 5 inches in length and live an average of 10-12 months.
- Their egg cases appear as spongy brown masses clinging to branches and twigs.
- It's true. Sometimes the female does consume the male after copulation.
- Large mantids can eat small salamanders, frogs and birds, though their diet consists mainly of other insects.
- To encourage praying mantids to make a home in your garden, focus on planting specimens suitable for egg laying (since mantids do not consume pollen or nectar). Good choices include golden rod, iron weed, ornamental grasses, Joe Pye weed, raspberries and other brambles.
- If you choose to purchase mantids for your garden and you live in a northern zone, be aware that Chinese mantids are more voracious than our native varieties, but they aren't nearly as winter hardy.
- Praying mantids are not discriminating eaters. They will catch and consume beneficial insects as quickly as pest insects, but they can definitely be added to the list of critters having an overall positive impact on your garden.
- Their heads can swivel 180 degrees and their compound eyes are perfect for spotting passing prey as they lie-in-wait for the ambush!