Do you have a favorite insect? One of mine is a praying mantid. All mantids are excellent hunters and get their name from their prayer-like hunting pose. They sit and wait for their meal to get within striking distance and grab the prey by the neck. Even though mantids are considered beneficial predatory insects, they are generalist predators, meaning they can be indiscriminate when it comes to prey and are known to eat butterflies, bees, frogs, and hummingbirds. Sometimes, the male is eaten by the female during or after the mating process.
There are two species of praying mantids found in South Carolina. The Carolina praying mantid (Stagmomantis carolina) is native to our state and was named the official South Carolina state insect in 1988. A smaller mantid species, it grows to about 2-inches long. The male has long wings for flight; therefore, is light and active. The female has short wings, cannot fly, and is big and heavy. This mantid is typically a mottled grey color, although it sometimes may be greenish-yellow. In the fall, the female will make an egg sac called an ootheca, which is a foam pouch that contains the eggs. These slender, elongated egg sacs are attached to surfaces and bark.
The Chinese mantid (Tendoera sinensis) is the largest species found in South Carolina. The color of the Chinese mantid ranges from pale green to tan, and the wings are tan with a green stripe along the margin. A native to China, it was introduced to the United States for agricultural pest control. When purchasing mantid egg cases for biological control, they are usually those of a Chinese mantid. The ball-shaped foam ootheca is usually attached to small twigs or branches.
For more information on beneficial garden insects, please see Beneficial Garden Insects.