Sunday, September 10, 2017

Praying for the Real Thing

Carolina mantis

Praying mantis is a pretty well-known insect; kids love ‘em, and they're always fun to see, right? That’s the way I used to feel until I learned that these insect predators aren’t all the same: we have both native and non-native species here in Georgia.

I was thrilled recently to find a native Carolina mantis in my yard after years of finding only the non-native ones.

Here are 3 quick identification tips to help you realize what you might find:

  • Carolina mantis is smaller overall (up to 2 inches) and has a black dot on each of the hind wings (so it looks like the back has two black dots since there are two wings). 
  • The wings on the Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis carolina) do not cover the abdomen; the wings on the non-native mantis (Tenodera sinensis) completely cover it and even extend beyond it a bit. 
  • The egg case of the Carolina mantis is oval shaped and adheres closely to a flat surface. The egg case of the non-native mantis is shaped like a pyramid and usually surrounds a small stem on a plant (3-dimensional).

Carolina mantis: short wings and wing spots visible
Carolina mantis egg case

Non-native mantis with long wings
Non-native mantis egg case
Photo: Wikipedia

The larger, non-native mantis grows to 4-6 inches and is the one that occasionally kills hummingbirds. It was introduced to the US in 1896. Now that I know how to recognize their egg masses, I cut them out and put them in the trash when I find them in my yard. Every year, I usually find one or two adults in the garden; I don’t always kill them but I do relocate them to another yard.

I found the Carolina mantis on the underside of a low-hanging oak branch. I took her down so I could take pictures and then put her on a branch of a black gum tree that had a few fall webworms. It’s been two weeks now and she is still there. I say hello on my way to the mailbox every day. After I placed her, I turned around and noticed a large non-native mantis on a small persimmon tree about 6 feet away. That one went for a long walk with me (crawling up and down the branch on which she was riding).

So now you know too. Do what you will with this information, but it's better to be informed than not.

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