Baby praying mantis invasion!

Baby praying mantis invasion!

One of the truths of gardening is that you never know when your garden will share something brand new with you. It’s almost always a surprise. Hopefully a delightful surprise.

Like this:

praying mantids hatching in the garden

Every winter, I collect praying mantis egg cases from my folks’ property and scatter them around my garden. Then, every spring, I celebrate each time I discover a baby mantis amongst the vegetables and flowers. But, for all these years of fostering praying mantises, I’ve never once witnessed the hatching of an egg case. That changed yesterday.

praying mantises hatching in the garden

baby mantis

It’s a bit like watching an alien hatch. In fact, it’s a lot like that. Don’t believe me? Check out this video:

A little bit creepy, right? But, also, very very cool.

If you’re unfamiliar with praying mantises, you should know that they are wonderful bugs to have around in the garden. The little ones will gorge themselves on aphids, flea beetles and other tiny pests, while larger mantises eat cabbage moths, beetles and, sometimes, one another. Hungry praying mantises don’t discriminate. They eat garden pests and beneficial bugs with equal abandon. So, yes, you are making things a bit more challenging for your lady bugs. But you’re also introducing another predator, which is generally a good thing. And, of course, your resident bug-eating birds will thank you for welcoming more big, tasty insects.

You know what they say: If you want to grow an ecosystem, you have to sacrifice a few bugs.

How do you encourage praying mantises and other hungry, pest-eating predators in your garden? Click here to share your tips in the comments section.

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30 Comments

  1. This is amazing! I always add Praying Mantis egg cases to our garden, too, but have never once seen them actually hatch–in fact I only ever see an adult later in the summer if I’m lucky. Thank you for sharing this!

    Reply
  2. Cristina, do you know if the “Praying Mantis” is the same bug or insect as the “Spit Devil?” We have a few of those show up every spring, and I always try to get rid of them every time I see one because of the ‘old saying’, “If they spit in your eyes it will blind you”. Is probably just a fable but I take no chances on it. Thanks for sharing the photos.

    Reply
    • Alice – I had to google ‘spit devil,’ because I’d never heard of it before. Turns out it’s a large walking stick that just doesn’t live this far north. It does spit, and its spit does hurt. But, it doesn’t cause blindness. Just discomfort.

      Praying mantises, on the other hand, don’t spit at all. :)

      Reply
  3. Thanks for sharing this video, I found it amazing to watch. We’re always happy when praying mantises show up here.

    Reply
  4. That video was awsome!. I live in the north east where can I find pods?.
    I love nature and gardening. Still learning every day.

    Reply
    • I live in the northeast too. I found about 6 cocoons along a chain link fence in an area where full-grown adult mantises were in the area during the late summer. they were pretty low to the ground (maybe a few inches above ground and no higher than 12 inches) and built around sturdy plant stems & even the chain link had one. check around in autumn. I left them outside under a wood porch, stuck the stalks they were on into dirt in a pot that had tall winter grass surrounding the sticks with cocoons, just protection from wind & sogginess from wet dirt. hope this helps!

      Reply
    • Two ways to find praying mantis egg cases, Edna. The first is just to look around your yard and other planted areas. The egg cases blend in well; I have the best luck finding them on grass stalks and old raspberry and blackberry canes. Best time to look for them is the winter, when there are no leaves to hide them.

      An alternative would be to buy egg cases. Many garden supply companies sell them. It may be too late for this year, but it’s always an option next year.

      I don’t think we ever stop learning about nature or gardening. One of the reasons why I’m so crazy about both! :)

      Reply
  5. Thanks for this fantastic video and the photos and story. My goodness, you had foresight!

    I used to see the praying mantises in my garden in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico where the climate is sub tropical. Now that I’m living in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, MX where the climate is high desert I have not seen any. But my garden is only 1 year old.

    I enjoy your blog!

    Libby

    Reply
  6. Wow!!! Thank you so much.. loved your movie. and I love getting your emails about the Garden.. good for you ( I never like the HOA’s) always telling you what you can and can’t do.. that is when I got my next house … that was one of things I made sure that I didn’t have…
    Thanks for sharing.
    Glenda

    Reply
  7. I once hatched mantids in my classroom and we watched them come out of the egg case. I was worried that if we didn’t get them out of the jar soon enough, they’d eat each other in front of the kids. I always love seeing them in my garden. Very cool bugs! :)

    Reply
  8. What time of year , and where can you find the eggs? I have mantis around our yard but have never seen eggs.

    Reply
    • The egg cases are easiest to find in the winter, when plants have lost their leaves. But, even then, it’s a challenge to find them. They’re the color of dead grass, and blend in remarkably well. I’ve found the easiest places to find them are on dead stalks of tall grasses, raspberries, black berries or other thin-stemmed plant stalks.

      Reply
  9. I found 4 of these fantastic egg cases in my lilac bushes this spring. Not knowing what they were, I asked my eleven year old son his opinion (he’s an avid animal lover), and he thought they were most likely praying mantis egg cases. After some research on the internet, I came to the conclusion that they are praying mantis egg cases. I have been checking them daily, but have seen nothing come out of any of them. I am so excited to hopefully see them hatch! I am in zone 5, not sure what zone you are in, but I’m thinking it might be a tad too early here for them to hatch.

    Reply
    • Hi Angie – I’m in Zone 7a, which means you probably have a little bit to wait before those egg cases hatch. Another week or two, maybe? You’ll know they’ve hatched if you see a bit of web-like stuff hanging off them. I hope you get to watch them hatch; it’s really very neat to see!

      Reply
  10. Lovely site!! Great photos and video!!
    I live in N.E.Spain, and we often have manti appearing in the garden, but today, I saw one on our windowsill which didn’t look like all the others! It was about 1.5 inches long, and carried its tail like a scorpion. Never seen young like this before..have you?

    Reply
    • That’s a new one for me, too, Nick. Definitely looks like a mantis of some sort, but not like any species I’ve seen before. Beautiful creature. Thanks for sharing your photo!

      Reply
  11. it is mid 0ctober why are mantises hatching now? i found a baby mantis on my grand daughter while playing in the yard.

    Reply
  12. Apparently there was an egg casing in my Christmas tree!! Yesterday we noticed these really weird looking bugs ALL over the wall and ceiling by the tree. We started vacuuming them up (sorry!!) because I didn’t know what they were. Well today they had more shape to them and we could see that they were baby praying mantises! I feel horrible for vacuuming them up. There were still many of them crawling around so I caught about 40 of them and now I don’t know what to do! Will they die if I put them outside in winter? Or I might just get an aquarium and try keep them alive until I can put them in my garden in the spring. Suggestions?

    Reply
    • Oh wow, I’m laughing out loud here, Carrie. I can’t imagine the mayhem an egg case full of baby mantids could cause. Must have been exciting!

      It’s definitely too cold for them outside. You could try keeping them in an aquarium. Or, perhaps better, maybe ask at a local plant nursery if they want them for their greenhouses. They could be great pest control for them. Good luck!

      Reply
  13. found my first ootheca fall of 2013 on a rosebush that hasn’t bloomed in years. thought it was a butterfly cuccoon. early that summer some roses actually bloomed on only the branch where the ootheca was. some kind of a cool miracle. could the ootheca have something to do with the roses blooming? then i noticed some 1″ long baby mantises in my yard. i was so impressed with how cute they were. later in the summer i noticed several very large mantises hanging around the yard. fall 2014 i found two more “cuccoons” on a chain-link fence behind my small vegetable garden. i began to research and was thrilled to find they were actually oothecas!!! i so hope they survived the cleveland, ohio winter. i really hope to be able to see the babies emerge. is there any way to know approximately when that might be? also, if i find any more this fall, is there any way to build an enclosure around them for protection over the winter? the ones on the fence are way more exposed to winter elements than the one on the rosebush was. i’ve always thought these creatures were so cool looking, but until last year i had only seen few “in person”. hopefully they will return this year and for many more. thank you if you are able to answer my questions.

    Reply
    • Thanks to you, Stephanie, I can say I’ve learned something new today — the term “ootheca.” I’ve always just called them “egg cases,” and had no idea there was an official term for them. Thank you! :)

      As for their winter hardiness, you have no need to worry. The egg cases — oothecas! — can handle severe cold. The only risk is that a small animal finds them and chews through for a mid-winter snack (I’ve found evidence of this in the past). Doesn’t seem to happen too often, and I’ve only noticed this kind of damage on low-hanging egg cases.

      Look for the egg cases to hatch once you have consistent spring warmth. Mid- to late-May seems to be about right around here. Check around mid-day on warm spring days.

      Reply
      • Thank you for your reply, Cristina. I’m going to mark my calendar and keep my eye out for babies to arrive. Happy Spring! Stephanie

        Reply
  14. Hi. Stopping by for advice. I have an old door that I am restoring and came in today to find it covered in baby praying Mantis. I want to catch and release them. Any ideas?

    Reply
    • What fun! The little mantids should move off your door pretty quickly — they tend to hang around for a short while before scattering to find food. If they are still lingering, you can gently scoop or herd them off with your hands.

      Reply
      • Cristina,
        Thank you so much for your advice. I was able to move all of them to my house and the neighbors house. The neighbor had just pulled out a plant that was covered in aphids. Sounds like these little guys will have plenty to eat.

        Reply
  15. I know this is an old blog but last night I saw my first baby praying mantis. It was the cutest thing ever. Then I saw 15 more. They were on my mother’s screened in porch. :)

    How many tend to hatch?

    I want to do something for my son’s science fair next year. I was thinking that attracting some mantis and documenting the eggs and the hatching through the year would be a good project! I am in zone 7A. When do they start laying eggs?

    Thank you from a new mantis mommy.

    Reply
    • I forgot a question, do the parents hang around at all for care and feeding or are the little guys left on their own?

      Reply
      • Oh yes, the little ones are totally on their own. Praying mantids only live for a single summer. They hatch mid to late spring, and grow big all summer long. Then they breed in the late summer or early fall, and die with the arrival of cold weather. Every year brings a new generation.

        Reply
    • Congrats on those baby mantids! Aren’t they cute? :)

      I’m not certain, but I think several dozen or more will hatch from a single egg case. They will grow all summer and then will lay new egg cases in the late summer or early fall. The best time to look for them is actually in the winter, when plants lose their leaves and it’s easier to spot the egg cases on plant stems. This may help you find a few: http://outlawgarden.com/2015/02/10/38-days-spring-hunt-praying-mantis-egg-cases/

      Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 38 Days to Spring: A Hunt for Praying Mantis Egg Cases - Outlaw Garden :: Outlaw Garden - […] They really are goofy looking when they hatch. In a space-alien-invasion kinda way. […]

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