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Naturally Get Rid of Pests Using Praying Mantises

Praying mantises are fascinating creatures that play a vital role in our ecosystem. They’re effective predators, feasting on a variety of garden pests and thus contributing to maintaining a natural balance.

This article aims to guide you on encouraging praying mantises in your garden or landscape as an efficient, natural pest control method.

Mantis eating a Common Bushbrown (Mycalesis perseus) butterfly
This praying mantis is making short work of this butterfly. Not all butterflies are significant “pests,” but many do lay eggs that hatch into common caterpillar pests.

Understanding Praying Mantises

What Are Praying Mantises?

Praying mantises are distinctive and easily identifiable insects. They are usually 2-6 inches long, depending on the species, with an elongated body and a triangular head. What’s unique about their head is that it can swivel 180 degrees, an unusual trait among insects.

Their most striking features are their large, bulging compound eyes that are usually a shade of green or brown, and their front legs which are bent in a way that resembles the position of prayer – hence their name.

These front legs are not just for show; they are equipped with sharp spikes and are used to catch and hold onto their prey. The body color of praying mantises can range from green to brown and even pink in some species, often matching their environment for better camouflage.

This helps them blend into their surroundings and surprise their prey. Some species have wings that cover their abdomen, and males, who are generally smaller than females, are more likely to fly.

Females are known for their larger abdomen, necessary for egg-laying. They belong to the order Mantodea, which comprises around 2,400 species distributed worldwide. Their diet primarily consists of other insects, making them excellent natural pest controllers.

Their life cycle includes three stages – egg, nymph, and adult – with some species exhibiting fascinating behaviours such as sexual cannibalism, where the female consumes the male post-mating.

The Importance of Praying Mantises in the Ecosystem

Praying mantises contribute significantly to the health and diversity of the ecosystem. They control the population of other insects, preventing overpopulation and potential plant damage. Moreover, as part of the food chain, they serve as prey for larger animals, contributing to the biodiversity and health of natural ecosystems.

Benefits of Praying Mantises in Gardening

Natural Pest Control

Praying mantises can help manage pests in the garden effectively. They feed on a wide range of insects, including aphids, caterpillars, and even leaf-chewing beetles. By preying on these pests, praying mantises help protect your plants from damage, reducing the need for chemical pesticides.

Indicator Species

The presence of praying mantises in a garden can indicate a healthy, biodiverse environment. These creatures thrive in spaces rich in other insects, their primary food source. So if you spot a praying mantis in your garden, it likely means your garden is teeming with life and diversity.

Praying mantis beneficial predatory insect
It’s always a pleasure to see a praying mantis in the garden.

How to Encourage Praying Mantises

Landscaping Tips

Certain plants are known to attract praying mantises, particularly those that also attract small insects. Consider incorporating plants such as tall grasses, yellow buttons, lilly pillies and callistemons into your garden. Arrange these plants in a way that provides plenty of cover and hunting grounds for the mantises.

Providing Suitable Habitats

As well as plants, allow areas to become rich in leaf litter. By creating such spaces in your garden, you can make it more inviting for these beneficial insects.

Avoiding Harmful Pesticides

Chemical pesticides can harm praying mantises. Opting for eco-friendly alternatives can help protect these beneficial insects. Consider using biological controls or horticultural oil, which are less harmful to your garden’s ecosystem for gardeners inexperienced with chemical usage.

Daniel’s Wrap

Praying mantises, with their predatory prowess, offer significant benefits for our gardens and landscapes. By understanding them better and making our gardens more inviting for them, we can harness their natural pest control abilities.

It’s time to appreciate these fascinating creatures and welcome them into our green spaces.

Daniel is a writer and content creator for Ozbreed, one of Australia's leading native and exotic plant breeders.

Daniel has worked in various capacities within the horticulture industry. His roles have ranged from team leader at several companies, to creator of the Plants Grow Here podcast and Hort People job board, as well as his position on the National Council for the Australian Institute of Horticulture (AIH).

He's passionate about explaining how to care for different types of plants to ensure home gardeners and professional horticulturists alike can get the most out of the plant babies.

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