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I love praying mantises and it's a good thing I do because they love my yard!

My large patch of lemon balm outgrew its bounds and spilled over the sidewalk so much I decided to trim it back. This involved not only cutting down huge piles of the herb but a major praying mantis relocation program. I captured and moved to other areas at least 3 dozen of them.

One of the refugees took up residence in a large flower planter on my front porch. She was looking a little thin so I thought I'd provide a free and easy meal. I captured a worm and dangled it in front of her. She reared back and practically fell off the leaf. Praying mantises apparently don't encounter worms in real life. Maybe it looked like a predatory snake.

I just found the first egg case for next year's generation. Praying mantis lay foam around a twig branch that hardens into a golf ball sized mass full of eggs. The young hatch in the spring, the elders die off in the fall or early winter. The males often die at the moment of copulation as the female turns around and eats their head. Praying mantids have this amazing Exorcist type head action, they can turn their weirdly triangular heads almost the whole 180 degrees from front to back. The females die a short while after laying the eggs.

They are wonderful insects to have around as they eat other insects. They are unfortunately non selective and will eat beneficial insects (like lady bugs and sibling mantids) too but overall I think they help keep the harmful insect population in check.

They make great "pets". Kept in an aquarium with plenty of live prey like crickets and moths they will live a full natural life cycle. They also need some plant material to climb on, and lay eggs on. They do lay eggs in captivity. They also need a natural light & dark cycle. They are easily injured with handling and do cling and bite so don't let small children or fearful adults handle them. They can be trained to take live food from a trainer's hand but sometimes miss and nip a live finger instead. My resident praying mantis population is one of the many reasons I don't use insecticides as a rule. If I poison a "bad" bug and a praying mantis eats it the mantis will die too.