The praying mantis - or mantid - is the most interesting looking beneficial insect to have around the garden. An icon of the beneficial insect world, the praying mantis serves as a powerful helper in the garden! It is a great generalist predator with a broad ranging appetite for pest insects, including most pest insects, mites, and eggs. They’re great for controlling larger pest insects such as the tomato hornworm. The best time to release them is when you start planting your tomatoes.
The female mantis lays her eggs on the stems of various plants. She surrounds the eggs in a frothy foam which hardens into a casing, and each casing contains about 200 baby mantids. It is these egg cases that are sold in garden centers like Marshall Grain to be used in your garden.
When distributing the egg cases in your garden, use 3 per 5,000 square feet. Place each egg case in the crotch of a bush or tree. Do not place them on the ground, as they become easy prey for ants.
Be careful where you deploy your garden army because praying mantises eat both harmful and beneficial insects. In fact, if they can’t find anything else to eat, they will eat each other. Don’t release them in the same area as your ladybugs, as they will find the red ladies just as attractive as other insects.
Release them continually through the spring and summer, and you’ll enjoy a virtually pest-free yard.
When using beneficial insects for a natural pest control it is important to remember that invaders will not be eliminated over night. Mother nature works slowly but consistently. You can assist garden friendlies by allowing your gardening to be self sustaining. Using organic maintenance methods and providing plant diversity with a variety of sources for food, water, and shelter will encourage beneficials to make their homes in your garden where they can serve as your army in the war against insect pests.
Now is the time to ditch those chemicals and introduce some natural predators to your organic garden. If you have any questions, give us a shout on social media!
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