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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, November 04, 2017 1:00 am

Praying mantises plentiful in state

Ricky Kemery

Q: I found several praying mantis egg cases in my garden this year. Someone told me not to remove them as the insect is endangered. Is this true?

A: This myth or rumor has been going around for decades. Praying mantises are not an endangered species. Praying mantis camouflages quite well in the garden, so they are often not noticed by residents. If they are not noticed very often, then some folks assume they are endangered.

Praying mantises are related to termites and cockroaches. Mantids can turn their heads 180 degrees to scan their surroundings and find prey. One of the praying mantis' most distinctive physical features, which led to its descriptive name, are the front legs which are folded in a pose that makes it appear they are praying.

They use their front legs to snare their prey with reflexes so quick that they are difficult to see with the naked eye. Their legs are further equipped with spikes for snaring prey and pinning it in place.

The praying mantis is found on all continents except Antarctica. It is a deadly predator. According to National Geographic magazine, Praying mantises eat live prey. Larger mantises have been known to catch and eat small frogs, lizards, rodents and birds. Their large eyes can see prey up to 50 feet away. They are also notoriously cannibalistic. In some cases, a female praying mantis will bite the head off the unlucky male after or even during mating.

In some parts of Africa, it is considered good luck if one of these curious creatures lands on you. The Greek word “mantis” means prophet or seer.

Most adult praying mantises have wings (some species do not). Females usually cannot fly with their wings, but males can.

While a praying mantis will bite if provoked, their bites are not venomous and cause little harm to humans.

Mantises were considered to have supernatural powers by early civilizations, including Ancient Greece.

In many parts of the world, the mantis is a symbol of stillness. According to Wikipedia, mantids are ambassadors from the animal kingdom, giving testimony to the benefits of meditation and calming our minds. An appearance from the mantis is a message to be still, go within, meditate, get quite and reach a place of calm.

As it turns out only three insects are considered endangered in the state of Indiana. The Mitchel's satyr, found in LaGrange and LaPorte counties, and Karner Blue Butterfly, found in Lake and Porter counties, are both butterfly species found in prairie fens or wetlands in northern Indiana.

The other insect species that is endangered is the rusty-patched bumble bee, which is found in prairie meadows and undisturbed sites in central Indiana.

One can take a further look at these species at www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered/lists/indiana-spp.html

The Plant Medic, written by Ricky Kemery, appears every other Saturday. Kemery retired as the extension educator for horticulture at the Allen County branch of the Purdue Extension Service.