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Praying Mantids

By Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Specialist, Entomology  

Praying mantids can be found in most of the state, although hard winters take a severe toll on their populations. You most commonly will see the European mantid, also known as the "praying mantis." This is a fairly large species that comes in both green and brown forms. A characteristic bulls-eye spot under the forearm is distinctive for this species.

The mantid of commerce, however, is the Chinese mantid, sold in the form of egg masses, which may contain 100 eggs or more. This is even a more spectacular species reaching three to four inches in length. These mantids may become established in gardens but rarely, if ever, survive Colorado winters. As a result they need to be reintroduced annually.

Mantids, despite their fearsome reputation, are not very effective in reducing numbers of garden pests. Their indiscriminate feeding habits cause them to mostly feed on innocuous flies or bees and their slow development does not allow them to increase numbers when pests become abundant. However, they are fascinating insects that can greatly enliven the garden environment by their very presence and are certainly a worthy wildlife feature.

Photo: Judy Sedbrook

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010