As previously mentioned, I bought a praying mantis egg case at the Parkdale Horticultural Society Plant Sale the other day.
It’s not exactly the most effective form of pest prevention in the garden for a few reasons: 1. Praying mantids are not discerning and will eat any and all insects in the garden, including the beneficials you were hoping to keep around. 2. Baby mantids cannibalize each other as soon as they emerge so a percentage are lost that way. 3. The bulk of the hungry little critters that make it without being devoured by their brothers and sisters take off for greener pastures as soon as they get the chance. It’s not like you can put them on a microscopic leash and force them to eat up all the baddies in your garden.
I’ve done the praying mantis egg case thing before as a form of pest control in the garden and really don’t have a need for it. At least, not on the roof. I attract a lot of beneficials via companion planting and things are generally under control save the plants that are particularly susceptible. The community garden could probably use some help, but I’m being selfish here. I really didn’t buy this batch because I needed pest control, I bought it because I have a lifelong love of praying mantids and thought it would be fun to watch them hatch. About a thousand years ago, when I was in grade one, a teacher brought an egg case to school in a bucket and I remember how exciting it was to watch mantids in miniature form emerge from the casing. And then, unfortunately, proceed to cannibalize each other. Memories! That event sparked a domino effect in my little brain that lead to me combing the young science section of the local library for information on these fascinating insects, and keeping a few as pests for short periods of time. To this day, by habit, I still scan for the spongy egg casings on dead plant twigs whenever I’m out walking in a field.
Back to today. Under normal circumstances, one would simply hang the little egg case, still in the bag it came in, in a bush or plant in your garden and leave it. The babies will emerge on their own once the temperature is warm enough. But the last time I did this I missed the emergence and never did see a single mantis. This time I want to see it. As per the instructions on the package, I sealed the egg casing inside a white paper bag and tapped it to a south-facing window. Unfortunately, I did not have a white paper bag. Where do you get white paper bags and why do you need them? But then I remembered the former feminine hygiene disposal bags that I grabbed from an airport bathroom a few months back to use as gift bags for friends. Before you think it, they weren’t used!
And that’s where the egg casing is now — tucked inside a paper feminine hygiene bag and stuck to my office window with green painter’s tape. I’ll let you know how it goes and will provide a photo update when the happy day arrives. The hope is that it happens while I am here (I check obsessively) and can catch it BEFORE they eat too many of their siblings, which happens whether or not they are in a bag. Nature is sometimes cruel.