UConn Extension

Mantids

By Donna Ellis, UConn, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, 2015.

The insect that we commonly refer to as a praying mantis is also known as a mantid. Praying mantids earned their nickname because they hold their forelegs bent and raised as if in prayer. These large, beautiful predators belong to the insect order Mantodea. Adult mantids common to our area range in length from 5 to 11 cm and have a distinctive appearance. They capture and feed on prey using large grasping forelegs with spines. Mantids can turn their triangular heads 180 degrees as they search for their next meal. Two large compound eyes and three simple eyes allow them to see up to 20 meters away. They have an elongated thorax, the middle of their 3 body segments, which gives the appearance of a “neck”.

Neither of the two mantids common to the US are native species. The European mantid (Mantis religiosa) is also known as the praying mantid. There are green and brown forms, with green being more common. The drab coloration of these insects helps to protect and camouflage them from predators. The Chinese mantid (Tenodera aridifolia sinensis) is a larger species, brown in color with yellow and green striping found on the sides of the wings. Mantid egg cases sold in garden centers and from online sources are typically from Chinese mantids.

Praying mantids can be found on plants with similar coloration to their bodies and in areas where other insects can be found. Mantids are predators of many types of insects, including flies, moths, grasshoppers, and crickets. They wait quietly, poised and ready until a prospective meal is within reach, then quickly grab the unsuspecting prey with their strong forelegs. This action occurs so fast that it can’t be seen with the naked eye. Mantids will feed on both harmful and beneficial insect species. A female mantid will often eat the male after mating.

The life cycle of mantids is an incomplete metamorphosis that includes eggs, an immature stage (nymphs), and adults. Female mantids lay hundreds of eggs each in papery sacs that they attach to weed or other plant stems. The egg sac is the overwintering life stage for the species, and the reinforced papery material provides protection from the elements during the colder months. When young mantids hatch in spring, these nymphs greatly resemble their adult parents but are much smaller and without wings.

The official state insect of Connecticut is the European or praying mantis, designated in 1977.

Mantis-Allen Bridgman

Allen Bridgman, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Bugwood.org

 

Praying mantid

 Mantis egg case-Jim Occi

Jim Occi, BugPics, Bugwood.org

 

Praying mantid egg case

 

References

Borror, D.J. and R.E. White. 1970. Insects. Peterson Field Guides. Houghton Mifflin Company, NY, NY. 404 pp.

Cranshaw, W. 2004. Garden Insects of North America. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J. 656 pp.

National Geographic, Praying Mantis, http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/bugs/praying-mantis/

Bug Week Offers Programs for the Whole Family

 

praying mantis
Praying Mantis. Photo: Stacey Stearns

UConn Extension’s Bug Week is right around the corner, and we have programs for the whole family.

Bugs are the unsung heroes of our ecosystem, providing services such as pollination and natural pest control. However, bugs don’t stop at environmental benefits. They have also impacted our culture through the manufacturing of silk, sources of dyes, wax and honey production, food sources, and the improvement of building materials and structures. There are also problem bugs, like the Emerald Ash Borer and Brown Marmorated Stink Bug who are a concern in Connecticut. Visit our website at www.bugs.uconn.edu for featured insects and resources.

All ages are welcome to attend and explore the activities and events dedicated to insects and their relatives. Bug Week programs include:

–      Pests and Guests will be held at the Tolland Agricultural Center in Vernon on Monday, July 20th at 5:30 PM.Activities include: cooking with bugs, games and demos for the whole family, and learning about bugs in the garden. We still have a few spots available, please RSVP to bugweek@uconn.edu or call 860-870-6974.

–  Join UConn Extension faculty and Spring Valley Student Farm staff and students for an interactive, fun-filled ‘buggy’ event. Learn about our amazing and important insect friends by collecting and observing them. Activities for the whole family will include insect collecting, insect-inspired crafts and a scavenger hunt. This event will be held on Tuesday, July 21st from 9-10:30 am and 5:30-7 pm. The rain date is July 22nd. Both sessions will be offered in English and Spanish.

–       Dr. Jane O’Donnell, Manager of Scientific Collections, Invertebrates will offer tours of the Insect Collections in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology on Thursday, July 23rd. Times available are 10 AM, 10:30 AM, 2 PM and 2:30 PM. Please RSVP to bugweek@uconn.edu or 860-486-9228.

–       Find out all about insects and where to look for them in this UConn Bug Week event at the Museum of Natural History in Storrs on Saturday, July 25th from 1-3 PM. We’ll focus on Lepidopterans, the order of insects that includes butterflies and moths, but will see what other types of insects we can find too! This event will include a short indoor presentation with live specimens and an outdoor exploratory walk with tips on where to find a variety of insects in their natural habitats. Discover more Bug Week activities at http://bugs.uconn.edu.

–       For more information on our programs please visit http://bugs.uconn.edu

UConn Extension offices are spread across the state and offer an array of services dedicated to educating and informing the public on innovative technology and scientific improvements. Bug Week is one example of UConn Extension’s mission in tying research to real life by addressing insects and some of their relatives.

For more information on Bug Week, please visit our website at www.bugs.uconn.edu or email bugweek@uconn.eduor call 860-486-9228.

Million Pollinator Garden Challenge

Million Pollinator logoPollinators are responsible for 1 out of 3 bites of food we take each day, and yet pollinators are at critical point in their own survival. Many reasons contribute to their recent decline. We know for certain, however, that more nectar and pollen sources provided by more flowering plants and trees will help improve their health and numbers. Increasing the number of pollinator-friendly gardens and landscapes will help revive the health of bees, butterflies, birds, bats and other pollinators across the country.
The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge (MPGC) is a nationwide call to action to preserve and create gardens and landscapes that help revive the health of bees, butterflies, birds, bats and other pollinators across America. We will move millions of individuals, kids and families outdoors and make a connection between pollinators and the healthy food people eat.
Pollinators Gardens Should
  • use plants that provide nectar and pollen sources
  • provide a water source,
  • be situated in sunny areas with wind breaks
  • create large “pollinator targets” of native or non-invasive plants
  • establish continuous bloom throughout the growing season
  • eliminate or minimize the impact of pesticides.
The MPGC mobilizes America’s extensive gardening community, and supports them in making more native and non-invasive pollen and nectar producing plants available in their gardens.  The Challenge increases their understanding of the critical role that such actions can play in reversing declining pollinator populations.

The Oriental Beetle

Photo and article by Joan Allen

Oriental Beetle
Oriental Beetle on lettuce. Photo: Joan Allen

Last week, an adult Oriental beetle was spotted on some lettuce in our vegetable garden. This in itself is not really a big deal because, unlike Japanese and Asiatic garden beetles, these adults are not voracious feeders and don’t typically require control. It can be important for a couple of other reasons though, to note the annual emergence of this species. One is that it typically precedes the emergence of the Japanese beetle by 1-2 weeks, so it’s a heads-up to be on the lookout for them. The other is that the larvae or grub stage of the Oriental beetle can cause significant damage to the roots of cool season turfgrasses and some ornamental plants including those in pots.

The adults are 3/8 to 7/16” long and have quite variable color and markings. They can range from light tan to dark brown and many have alternating dark and light line patterns on the wing covers (elytra). After emerging in mid to late June in southern New England, beetles feed and mate. Females lay eggs a few inches deep in moist soil in small groups for a total of 20-30 eggs per individual. If drought conditions prevail, egg-laying may be delayed as long as into September. Grubs hatch 18-24 days later under average temperature and weather conditions and feed on roots and organic matter near the soil surface. As grubs increase in size and grow through three instars or stages, the amount of damage done to host plants increases too. Third instar larvae overwinter deep in the soil (8-17”). They migrate upward and resume feeding when the soil warms in the spring. After feeding for 4-5 weeks, the grubs pupate and transform into adults, completing the annual life cycle.

If you are concerned (or know) that white grubs, the larvae of Oriental, Japanese and several other scarab beetles, are damaging your lawn or other plants, it is important to correctly identify the beetle species for selection of the most effective control strategies. Pheromone traps are available to monitor for the presence of adult male Oriental beetles. Because these traps only attract males, they do not have the potential to increase damage in the area as Japanese beetle traps can. Identification of white grubs to species requires a close look at their little rumps. Using a hand lens, inspect the pattern of ‘hairs’ on the lower side. The Oriental beetle grub has two parallel rows of small hairs down the middle.

How do you know if you have enough grubs to warrant a control product? For Oriental beetle, thresholds of 8-10 grubs per square foot of lawn are suggested. Peel back a one-foot square section of turf and check the soil and roots for grubs. White grubs will be in a C shape. They’re going to be most numerous and problematic in sunny areas. Don’t forget about grub identification!

Management strategies include cultural practices, biocontrols and chemical insecticides. For both biocontrol and most chemical products, the early instar or youngest grubs are the most vulnerable and therefore the most easily controlled. More information on these can be found at these links:

http://www.beyondpesticides.org/alternatives/factsheets/Grubs.pdf

http://www.ct.gov/caes/cwp/view.asp?a=2815&q=376940

Connecticut claim to fame: The Oriental beetle was first confirmed in the United States here in 1920. It didn’t appear to spread much until around the 1970s. Since then it has expanded its U.S. distribution to include most of the east coast and extending westward to Ohio.

If you need assistance with grub or beetle identification, or control tips, contact the UConn Home & Garden Education Center by phone at 860-486-6271 or by email at ladybug@uconn.edu.