Naturespeak A naturalist's view of the world

April 24, 2008

Two for One Mantis Sale

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 7:33 pm

†Praying mantis egg cases are those familiar hard foam blobs that hold the promise of new life and garden salvation wrapped up into one package. Depending on which garden website you go to, youíll see them offered for immediate shipment at a going rate spanning the gamut from $1.35 to $4.00 apiece. Promoted like T.V. miracle products, these egg cases come with a promise that they will release hundreds of pest-hungry predators into your garden plot like time-released headache medicines.The hatchling mantids will grow into big mantids at the expense of your nasty garden pests and they are 100% chemical free.

Well, I guess most of this is stuff is true, but we loose sight of the fact that these creatures are very common and are quite capable of spreading themselves. Mantis egg cases are a regular sight in the leafless landscape, so chances are you can save a few bucks and transfer a few naturally occurring ones to your garden this spring. But, hurry because supplies will be going fast. They will be hatching out very soon.

My intention here is not to re-tell the well known story of these beneficial insects, but instead to focus momentarily on their egg cases before they release their charges and become yesterday’s news. Mantis egg cases, like the one pictured above, are one of natureís perfect packages and therefore worth a second look. Without them you have no Praying Mantisí- large or small.

Yesterday, I encountered the case that is pictured above.It was attached to a small dogwood in the midst of a field.Like all examples, it is hard to the touch and water resistant. The material of which it is made was issued from the hind end of a female Chinese Mantis last September.She deposited her 100-400 rice-like eggs into alternating rows and enveloped them in white bubbly aerosol foam that cured into a tan-colored rigid insulating cover. Technically these things are called Ootheca, but I tend to be un-scientific about it and call them seafoam packets. The new generation was well kept from the harsh effects of low temperature, wind, snow, and rain and the case delivered its cargo safely into the new year.

From the top angle (see here), you can see a flat central mid-line that contrasts with the bumply ridge material to either side. The young will eventually push out of their chamber through this central section. These features are common to most, if not all mantis egg cases (There are thousands of species world-wide and I donít want to go out on a limb and say that they all have these traits, even though I could pretend that is the truth).

This particular case has a truncated end where it stops and slopes down at a steep angle to the stem.Here is a prime example of the type created by the Chinese Mantis- an introduced species from that specific part of the world. Last month I photographed another case with a very different profile (see here).It was shaped like a tiny loaf of bread. Iím not entirely sure what species made this structure because both the European Mantis and the Carolina Mantis produce this kind of casing. The European Mantis, as you probably figured out, is an introduction from Europe and the Carolina Mantis is a native from the S.E. United States.Since I snapped the shot locally and the Carolina is not normally found this far north, I have to conclude itís from Mantis religiosa Ė the European immigrant. Neither of these cases is from a native insect.

My point, in this case study, is to simply encourage you to take a nice close look at the next mantis case you find. See if you can figure out what specific kind was responsible and take a few moments to admire yet another example of naturally good packaging.


  1. Thanks for the details on mantis egg cases. I was trying to find whether the ones sold in the stores were from native species or not – you’ve confirmed my suspicion that they are not. Mantids used to be common in old fields in my region (southern Ontario) but have declined precipitously in recent years, probably in response to farmers managing fields and roadsides to prevent what they view as weed species buildup. I’ve been sorry to see them go – it’s always a thrill in August to find a big mantis hanging from a goldenrod or aster stem.

    Comment by Clement Kent — May 12, 2008 @ 11:20 am

  2. I use to find the chines mantis every but they are going. but I have a egg sac and it is going to hatch. I even have troble finding the females. It’s not good for peple to do things like cut down forst or burn

    Comment by bug girl — October 27, 2010 @ 8:29 am

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