Saturday, February 25, 2012

Time to Order Mantis Eggs

Warning: if insects bother you, you might want to skip this post!

Every year around this time I order about five praying mantis eggs (I really want to cap. 'praying mantis', but it's the common name so apparently I'm not supposed to-still bugs me though).  Regardless, I buy the eggs.  People often buy them for garden pest control.  I mainly buy them because they're just really cool. The girls get a huge kick out of it and so do I. 

Praying Mantis Egg

Every egg yields about two-hundred teeny tiny praying mantises (or 'mantids').  I know, that's a lotta babies.  We leave the eggs inside, where they are protected from the weather in one of those butterfly pop-up mesh containers.  It takes a few weeks or more after they arrive before they hatch.  It's the warm temperatures inside that stimulate the hatching process. 

-On a side note, I've read that sometimes people find hundreds of baby praying mantises in their house during the holidays.  Turns out, they purchased a Chritmas tree with an egg attached to it unknowingly and then the inside temp. kicked the egg into hatching mode.  Kind of sad, huh?

Our eggs usually hatch at night while we are sleeping. But last year I happened to look at the eggs as I was about to go to bed and saw that the very first mantis had just hatched.  They have a domino effect on each other during the hatching process- one hatches, which disturbs the one next to it and also gives it a little wiggle room so it hatches as well.  The process repeats until they've all hatched. So, I was able to observe the entire two-hundred or so baby mantises emerge from the egg over a forty-five minute period.  I admit, there's kind of an 'Oh gross!' gut reaction, but once you get over it, it's really quite beautiful.

Praying Mantises Hatching (image from Agrihunt)

Newly hatched mantis or 'nymph'.  Just like Mom, only tiny!

 We keep the nymphs indoors and feed them aphids, ants and like until they are about an inch long and we feel that the worst of the weather is behind us (usually around mid April).  Then, we release them all over our property.

Every spring we'll receive a visitor or two from the previous year.  Usually we'll see one hanging around our deck lights at night where they are looking for a meal.  One of the girls will say, "Oh look, one of our praying mantises!" 

Hatching mantis eggs has become a spring tradition in our house.  If you haven't tried this and want to give it a go, you can find eggs here!

Finally, I want to share a few spectacular praying mantis images that I ran across.  These were taken by Igor Siwanowicz.  He's a photographer who studies the habits and physiology of the praying mantis.  Wow.

Image by: Igor Siwanowicz

Image by Igor Siwanowicz

Orchid Mantis: Image by Igor Siwanowicz


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