What's growing on?

Here's what's growing on in March 2023

Praying for Spring

And for Mantids!!!!

Several years ago, pre-pandemic, our MG club held an annual symposium.  One of the speakers at the event was an Etymologist from Purdue University.  We had asked him to speak about garden bugs.  We didn’t want the same tired speech about attracting pollinators to the garden or the plight of the monarch butterflies and honey bees.  We’ve heard those talks before and while they have good messages, what we really wanted was to identify good garden bugs vs. bad garden bugs and being the environmentally conscious group that we are, we wanted to know how we could get the good bugs to get rid of the bad ones utilizing natural methods instead of chemicals.  It was a very informational talk and I learned some new things.  I had always thought that if you saw praying mantises in your garden they were good guys and they ate their share of garden pests.  Oh sure, I had heard a few stories about how someone’s brother’s wife’s uncle’s daughter had a mantis camp out on her hummingbird feeder and ate a few hummers one summer.  I typically chalked that up to Urban legend or a really hungry bug.  But nevertheless, I was extremely excited last fall when I saw this beautiful Praying mantis egg case in one of my gardens. ( see photo above)

It turns out that while seeing a mantis in your garden does mean that you have a fairly healthy and diverse ecosystem, they cannot be counted on take on superhero status and rid Flower city of criminals.   Gardeners who prefer to avoid pesticides may encourage mantises in the hope of controlling insect pests. However, mantises do not have key attributes of biological pest control agents; they do not specialize in a single pest insect, and do not multiply rapidly in response to an increase in such a prey species, but are general predators. They eat whatever they can catch, including both harmful and beneficial insects. They therefore have "negligible value" in biological control.  Also, they really are not north American natives.   They were introduced coincidentally as as biological control from China and have established a foothold in America.   They just didn’t work out quite as well as hoped.   Oh, and did I mention that they also practice sexual cannibalism?!?!?  For the strong of heart here’s a little YouTube video if you are curious:


I tell you this story gentle reader because this really made me think about my gardens and what goes in them.  I have been really hard on some of my friends about their choices of plants and I have decided that I most definitely need to chill.  My gardens have a mix of both natives and some plants that are there just because I like them.  My favorite green bean is a French variety and I would not dream of planting anything else.  I really have no right to force my friends into making choices based on some of my potentially misguided beliefs.  I guess what I am realizing and trying to promote is that a diverse population may not be so bad as long as everything can live in harmony.  It’s a mantra that I need to keep repeating as I’m planning some new gardens this year and talking to my friends about their gardens.  

So for all my gardening friends, please make sure to call me out when I become overbearing about what is best for your gardens.  Just tell me to put my hands together and think about Praying Mantises.  I will continue to be happy to see them in my gardens.  I’ll just try to keep them away from my hummingbird feeders.