Praying Mantid Antics

By Eve Pranis

Paul Johnson, a horticultural educator in Vancouver, recommends praying mantids as fascinating classroom "pets" and indoor garden protectors. They've successfully raised praying mantids for some time in Vancouver greenhouses for use in first through seventh grade classrooms. Paul says that although only the young praying mantids will feed on aphids, whiteflies, fungus gnats, and other garden insects (the older ones prefer crickets), the kids were enthralled by the whole process. "Every morning the kids rushed in to observe them, to see if they'd molted or changed. They measured the mantids' growth, determined how much and what types of foods they ate, and noted how they changed over time."

Paul says each cycle begins as the female, using saliva, spins a cocoon. When the young emerge, the more dominant ones may cannabilize some others for a short time. Paul recommends separating the young and keeping each in a plastic container with perlite or vermiculite in the bottom. Put bread crumbs, or some mites or other insects in the bottom for mantis food. You can also feed young mantids bananas and other soft fruits.

You can visit the following Web site to order praying mantids and other beneficial insects:

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