Master gardener: Praying mantises, interesting guests in the garden | Home & Garden


Many have probably heard the story of the female praying mantis eating the head of her unsuspecting mating partner. This can sometimes happen in nature, but it is not the norm. Some say that the praying mantises used in the study that gave rise to this common myth were undernourished. Hard to know, but I think the bottom line here is that if you are an insect your best plan is to keep your distance from praying mantises.

After mating in the fall, female mantises lay tens to hundreds of eggs. These eggs are mixed with a foamy solution that hardens to provide a protective shell in which the eggs overwinter. The adults die soon after. In the spring, baby mantises hatch and look like small versions of the adult.

This is probably a good time to talk about the growth stages of insects. For the most part, we categorize insect maturation processes into two categories: complete metamorphosis and incomplete metamorphosis. Complete metamorphosis occurs in butterflies, for example, because there are four distinct stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. At each of these stages, the insect is very different from the previous stage.

In incomplete metamorphosis there are three stages: egg, pupa and adult. With incomplete metamorphosis, after hatching, the insect is very similar to its adult counterparts, barely smaller, as they go through several stages (stages of growth). At the end of each stage, the insect loses its skin and comes out a little bigger. This continues until they reach adulthood. Initially, the young nymphs of the religious mantid do not have wings but develop them later in the process.


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