Friday, May 22, 2009

Time to slide down to freedom!

This time of year is when those puffy, wafer-like blobs on your bushes begin to spew tiny little insects. These amazing insects are extremely beneficial to ones garden. Who are these insects you ask?? Of course I am talking about the elusive, and deadly, Praying Mantis.
Here in Connecticut, we only have one species of mantis, Mantis religiosa, or the European Manits. The European mantis is not native to Connecticut. Its original habitat is in Northern Africa, Southern Europe, and some parts of Asia. There are roughly 2,000 different species of mantis in the world, ranging from a tiny 2/5" to a massive 6+"! Our mantids only grow to around 2-3".

The female mantis will lay her eggs in a frothy foam called and ootheca. The ootheca hardens, trapping each egg in a foam bubble to keep safe until the next spring. Females lay these oothecas in fall, before they die from the impending frosts, and they hatch the next spring. A single ootheca can hold anywhere from 30 to 300 larvae.
When the time comes, each individual larvae slides down from the ootheca on a miniscule stand of silk to its new life eating the aphids that mutate the new growth on my Rose of Sharon! The photos above show a baby mantis on May 23th of 2008. The photo on the left gives one an idea of the size... it is sitting on the end of a cone flower leaf. This particular little guy was no bigger than my pinkie fingernail.

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