A praying mantis lives in our central coast garden. I get shivers when I see them. They can be truly scary-looking when they cock their heads and stare you in the eye. But I have to remember that these are the “good guys”. They eat all kinds of insects that destroy our plants. Unfortunately, they are also known for eating each other when hungry. They are really quite harmless to people and can be “pets” if you are so inclined. They can fly some distance when provoked.
Probably the few that inhabit our coastal garden are California mantises, a native to the west coast that is also found in Oregon. But there are over 2,000 species of this charming insect and are now found everywhere in the U.S..
The praying mantis is called this because their front legs fold toward their bodies in a position of prayer. Their legs have sharp spines along their edges for grasping their prey. They are considered ambush predators, meaning they hide and wait for food to come to them. They need plants that are similar to their color for their habitat. California mantises are usually green, looking similar to a leaf.
The mantises in our garden are quite bold. They don’t seem afraid of people though I’m not inclined to pick them up so they have nothing to fear. When I see one, I stop and thank them for the service in helping keep my garden pest free and let them go about their business undisturbed.