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Praying Mantis 0708

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The Praying Mantis: A More Efficient Form of Pest Control?




 By: Brian B.


Description and Rationale




Using beneficial insects to monitor pests is nothing new.  Farmers and gardeners have been aware of the usefulness of many insects and have been using them for over fifty years.  This method of pest control is actually one of many kinds of Integrated Pest Management, or IPM.  IPM is a substitute for hazardous chemicals which has the potential of wiping out entire pest populations.  IPM relies mainly on natural ways to eliminate pests, rather than quick, conventional ways, which mainly rely on dangerous substances.  Another factor that makes IPM successful is its main goal: control of a species, not total eradication.


Is IPM really more effective than mass elimination of a species?  Are its methods really safer?  Is the use of beneficial insects the best way to monitor pests? Can this certain method have negative effects on beneficial members of an ecosystem?  Is it really possible to keep a population under control through this method? Or does it do nothing to a population? Will it lower economic costs?  Can it help humans as well? Is IPM really a practice that deserves recognition in the Philippines?  Can the farmers in the Philippines use this method successfully?


How can we use the beneficial insect method to its fullest potential without harming friendly benefactors of the environment?  One way is to introduce a predator species that helps the environment and eliminate the pest.  If the new species cannot adapt, a new way would have to be introduced that could be harmful.  Another possible pitfall is that the beneficial insect might devour other organisms that support the environment.  This has not been reported before, but the possibility is still present. Is there an insect that will not eat good insects in an environment?


The purpose for this project is to find out if using a predator insect – the praying mantis can in any way be harmful to the environment, or to animals that support the environment by researching which insects are best and releasing them in gardens.  Interviewing and asking gardeners or provincial farmers in barangays with pest problems what the best solution they have found can also help.  Also, it would be to the advantage to find native species of beneficial insects instead of having to buy them.  After compiling all the data accumulated, it will be identified whether or not the praying mantis is the best non-chemical pesticide.


It is anticipated that the use beneficial insects might be explored further as to its reliability and how it can be used to its full potential.


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Common Names and Synonyms


Hierodula parviceps is one of the many scientific names of the well known insect, the praying mantis.  It is very popular with gardeners since these insects prey on garden pests.  Mantids use their camouflage to hide and wait for prey, then lash out with their sharp forceps to capture and hold the quarry while it devours it.  Other names for the mantis are Sasamba (Tagalog); Apan-apan (Cebuano); and Carolina Mantis (United States).





Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum – Arthropoda (jointed legs)

Class – Insecta (six legged animal)

Order – Dictyoptera (straight winged insects)

Family – Mantidae (prophet, praying insect)

Genus – Hierodula (sacred two)

Species – H. parviceps (grasping)



H. parviceps refers to the Mediterranean mantis which is widely distributed throughout Western Asia and the Mediterranean.  Stagomantis carolina is found in the United States, and Mantis religiosa is known as the European mantis.  All three species look very similar but are found in different continents. H. parviceps is the species that appears in the Philippines.



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Morphology and Physical Description




These mantids usually grow to 3.5 inches, or approximately 9 cm.  The bulk of the insect is its abdomen.  The abdomen of the mantis can sometimes double in size after ingesting a large meal.  The exoskeleton of the abdomen looks like overlapping segments of armour that expand when it distends.



The second largest part is the thorax, which is the part of the body that enables mobility.  From it, six legs come out, four of which look very similar.  The mantis uses those four legs to walk and balance on.  The forward legs are the pincers which the mantis uses for catching prey.  On those pincers are tarsi, which it can walk on as well.  Sometimes a tarsus is lost during moulting, making the mantis dependent on the tip of its claw. 




The head of the insect is the smallest part of the body.  It is triangular, and has two large symmetrical eyes on each half with three smaller eyes in between them.  Powerful mandibles below the eyes are designed to crush prey.  Two intermediate length antennae sprout out between the eyes.  The praying mantis is a very visual insect; it can detect movement as far away as sixty feet. 



Internally, insects have no lungs, including mantids. They breathe through spiracles in their legs.  The air goes through smaller and smaller tubes in their body called Tracheae.  This is one of the reasons insects cannot get very large.  If an insect gets too large, it becomes difficult for them to breathe.



The nervous system of an insect includes the brain and a number of ganglia.  A ganglion (plural ‘ganglia’) is a connection of nerves in a single place.  A pair of connection cords travels side by side from the brain to the abdomen.  This is known as the ventral nerve cord.  The cords meet the ganglia at certain intervals in the body.                                                table of contents...



Getting Food


Mantids are carnivorous insects, feeding on other insects and occasionally small mammals.  Their main diet consists of butterflies, grasshoppers, crickets, ants, beetles, moths, and other such insects.  They have been seen eating mice, hummingbirds, and frogs.  No toxin is used to subdue prey. Instead, they devour their prey by first biting the neck to paralyze it, then they finish it off headfirst.  Mantids usually take their prey alive and struggling, but if the mantid is starving, they will eat anything in front of them, dead or alive.  They feed everyday if they can find food.  Occasionally, they can devour a large meal and go without eating for two to three days.  Also, one to three days before moulting, they will stop eating to shrink their abdomen.  They moult upside down on twigs or branches, then resume normal eating patterns afterwards





Mantid reproduction is a well known example of sexual cannibalism, where the female eats the mate during mating.  Males, which are noticeably smaller, jump onto the back of the female and deliver sperm.  While in the process, the female may turn and eat the male’s head, and after mating is done, will finish off the male.  The female will then lay an ootheca, or egg case containing 2-400 eggs on any sheltered spot she can find.  When the eggs hatch, nymphs emerge.  They are tiny versions of adults, since they go through incomplete metamorphosis. Incomplete metamorphosis is where the insects grow by moulting.  Hatchlings resemble adults, but are very tiny.  They grow into adults after a certain number of moults.  The nymphs’ first meal is usually their sibling if they can’t find anything small enough to eat.


Environmental Factors



Praying mantids mainly live almost anywhere between the tropic of Capricorn and Cancer.  They are often found in gardens, farms, or any place in general where there is an abundance of prey.  They do not live in extreme environments, and usually die out during winter in countries with snow.  The main predators of the mantis are any animals that feed on insects, including birds, and frogs.  In a cursory use of the internet, the researcher did not find any known diseases or parasites that use the praying mantis as a primary or secondary host. 

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Origin and Distribution


Mantids have been around since the Garden of Eden, their natural habitat being most of the temperate regions of the world.  Evolution Scientists claim they evolved from cockroaches, but have no solid evidence for that statement.  


Within the last century, Asian mantids were mass-introduced in American gardens when there were not enough native species to handle pests.  Mantids can adapt to almost any temperate environment.  Mantids are also found down south in Australia and South America, as well as Africa.



 Yellow regions indicate Mantis range


Importance to People



These insects are mainly used by gardeners and farmers to rid their gardens or farms from pests.  Mantis egg cases are purchased by gardeners for use in gardens or where problematic pests may be.  


Mantids can also be kept as pets, as they require little attention and are easy to care for.  They can live on household insects such as flies and mosquitoes while only requiring a jar to live in.  They are best kept in the wild though, since their natural instinct is stalking and waiting.  


Survivability and Endangered Status



Praying mantids are not endangered, nor are they overpopulated.  They tolerate a range of environments and can live almost anywhere in the Philippines.


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Potential Solutions


It has been established that the praying mantis is a beneficial species that lives best in the garden.  Among its list of prey are most of the garden pests that plague crops.  The question raised now is if it is the best at its job, or is there a better method?  Additional research is required before determining whether or not this insect is best for the garden. There are several ways to discover the answer to that question.  Stated below are the possibilities showing the pros and cons for each.


Possibility 1 - Raising pet mantids for a home garden



In the previous semester of the school year, the researcher raised a praying mantis from a juvenile. It was kept for about three to four weeks before its final moult to adult.  After the moult, the mantis, whose name was Squishy nearly doubled in size and wings appeared.  Taking care of Squishy was easy, since she ate everything put in her jar, including house flies, grasshoppers, many different butterflies, spiders, mosquitoes, ants, flying and grounded, and certain types of moths. Some of these insects are annoying pests around the garden and inside the home.  Since care for them is easy and they rid pests, this would be an ideal possibility for people who have private gardens to get rid of pests.  Currently, mantids cannot be found anywhere in my local vicinity.  This possibility is best carried out when the species are abundant.



                              Mantis Exoskeleton




1.    Any pests that regularly plague the garden is game for the mantids.  It is not harmful to any plants, and does not upset the natural beauty like traps or pesticides do. Also, if in the garden, they do not need to be cared for.


2.    Eggs can be laid, or placed by humans in the garden as a source of renewable pest control if the population of mantids reduces for any reason.




1.    Mantids do not completely eliminate all the pests in the garden. If a garden is overrun by a certain pest though, they will feed on that pest until it goes away.  


2.    Mantids are selective, and there are some insects that it will not eat. While Squishy was in captivity, she refused to eat some moths placed in her jar.  


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Possibility 2 - Mass release of mantids on a large garden or farm


People who have big gardens or farms can attempt to use many mantids to try and keep the pests under control, but this is risky, since mantids are very mobile.  It also would be quite expensive to keep this method running.  Currently, I have no knowledge of any local farms with which to carry out this possibility.




1.    Most pests coming en mass would not survive.  Mantids have a great appetite, meaning a massive infestation of Japanese beetles or other such pests would easily be dispatched.


2.    There is a possibility of mantids breeding on the farm and laying eggs all over.  This is helpful in replacing lost mantids, whether they died or migrated elsewhere.




1.    Mantids on a large scale such as that would be very difficult to handle and contain.  If all or most of the species chose to migrate or     wander off, the garden or farm would be left without a big source of     protection


2.    If the garden or farm was dependent on mantids, unfavourable whether or other such circumstances could kill of a number of them.  Also, if there is an infestation of an insect not favoured by the mantids, they would be of no use.





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Possibility 3 - Interview knowledgeable people and spread the information to gardeners



An easier method than experimenting to attain results is to talk to someone who has experience in this field of study.  In this case, I contacted Dr. Jessamyn R. Adorada by phone, who has been working in the field of entomology for twenty years and has a Ph. D. in a branch of entomology.  She is a professor at the University of the Philippines in Los Banos, Laguna.  Questions as to the effectiveness of praying mantids in the garden and details of mantids were asked.  

I then told two old friends of ours who were avid gardeners what I found.




University of the Philippines, Los Banos Campus






Dr. Adorada alluded that the effectiveness of the praying mantis as a pest control in the garden is not as great as most websites and other sources say it is.  Some of the factors which disqualify mantids as the number one choice of pest control is the fact that mantids are carnivorous and cannibalistic.  Not only will mantids eat pests, but also other beneficial species in the garden if the chance is presented, i.e. spiders and pollinating insects.  Another inhibiting factor is the small number of generations that parviceps have each year.  A generation is how many times a year nymphs hatch and grow to adults.  A similar species in the Philippines, Mantis religiosa, has two generations a year, but that is still not enough.  A better insect to use would be one that has five or more generations a year, or are widely prevalent, such as parasitic wasps, or ladybugs.   Dr. Adorada mentioned that praying mantids can be used for pest control if the garden or farm is not dependant solely on them.  A few factors are present that make the praying mantis a suitable choice.  One is that there are no known parasites or diseases that use parviceps as a host.  Overall though, it would be best to use multiple forms of pest control with mantids which would ensure garden protection from almost anything except drought.                                                         




                 Tenodera aridifolia sinensis


Raising Awareness:


I spread the information I obtained to some Filipino friends of ours.  They have been gardening for twenty years in the Philippines.  They help out the people around them by selling fresh vegetables.  In order to get rid of pests, they used a weakly diluted pesticide to spray on their plants and manual inspections to remove underground threats such as beetle larvae.  I informed them a better alternative to pesticide would be naturally using insects like praying mantids, ladybugs, and other beneficial insects native to the Philippines.  After I explained how the praying mantis benefits the garden, they now know not to eat or kill them.







1.    Discovering much needed information from a person experienced in the field is an excellent way to acquire important data without having to spend too much time on an experiment.


2.    A personal bias or opinion can be replaced with facts, instead of believing possibly faulty assumptions.  If lies are assumed as true and propagated, then no one would know the truth, which leads to confusion and captivity, as mentioned in Proverbs 19:5.  Likewise, Proverbs 30:8a tells us to keep lies away from us, so we should do our best to find the truth.


3.    Spreading the word around to people who enjoy the topic is a good way to increase awareness.




1.    The inquirer will not achieve evidence based on experiments, creating a lack of experience.


2.    The evidence given by the professional is assumed to be true, but leaves a possibility of misinformation.


3.    There is always the possibility that people will forget or ignore most of what is told them.




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Adorado, Jessamyn. Phone interview. 2 May, 2008.



Chen, Peter. “Raising Praying Mantis.” Earthlife.net. 2008. 29 April, 2008.   <http://www.nicerweb.com/sketches/mantis/mantis.html>.



“Greek and Latin Roots.” Kent School District. 2008. 28 April, 2008. <http://www.kent.k12.wa.us/ksd/MA/resources/greek_and_latin_roots/transition.html>.



“Mantis.” Microsoft Encarta Premium Suite 2005. Redmond: Microsoft 2005.



“Mantis.” Wikipedia.org. 30 April, 2008. 1 May, 2008.  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Praying_mantis>.



“Praying Mantis.” Blogspot. 17 August, 2007. 1 May, 2008.  <http://devecim.blogspot.com/2007/08/species.html>.



“Praying Mantis.” Insecta Inspecta World. 1 June, 2004. 17 April, 2008. <http://www.insecta-inspecta.com/mantids/praying/index.html>.



“Praying Mantis.” National Geographic. 2008. 1 May, 2008.  <http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/bugs/praying-mantis.html>.




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