Benefical Insects in Our Gardens (Praying Mantis)

Springtime not only brings thoughts of flowering crocus, daffodils and tulips, but of spring cleaning in the garden.  Left behind from fall and winter are masses of leaves, twigs, needles and blown trash stuck in every nook and cranny in our gardens.  Spring is the time to clear away the debris so new life can emerge from the warming soil to once again brighten our gardens.

While doing your Spring cleaning in your garden not only be vigilant with your cleaning, but also look for overwintering insect eggs.  One in particular is the Mantids or you may know it by its commonly referred name the “Praying Mantis”.  If you are fortunate enough to discover one do not destroy it.  The Mantids are one of the best beneficial insects to have in your garden.

There are at least six species of mantids found in Colorado.  Mantids are ferocious predators that feed on  a variety of insects, including the pests that want to destroy our the plants in our garden.  Mantids come in various sizes from over 3″ to 1.5 inches.  They come in colors of green and brown.

The most prevalent species found in Colorado is the European mantid the true Praying Mantis.  This variety is rather large, exceeding three inches when full grown and comes in green or brown forms.  This variety can easily be identified by a “bull’s-eye” under the fore leg.

Mantids are some of the most well-recognized and distinguishably of all the insect groups.  The front grasping legs are what captures everyone’s eyes when they spot a mantid.  The legs are well-designed for grasping and holding their prey.  They also have this uncanny ability to turn their triangular-shaped heads in order to see in all directions.

Mantids survive our cold winters as eggs.  The eggs are laid in masses, known as oothecae.  The oothecae is covered in a foamy material making them look like a “packing peanut”.  They are attached to solid surfaces such as buildings, dried plant life, or in my case my central air conditioner unit.

Generally the eggs hatch in late spring, or earlier depending on the weather or if they are located in a secluded warm area.  Once they hatch the offspring called “nymphs”  feast on small gnats, other insects or sometimes cannibalizing on other nymphs emerging from the egg.

Survival is a major factor with mantids, so the use of camouflage and concealment play a vital role in their existence.  Their protective coloration allows them to blend in with the surrounding vegetation to avoid predators, but also to conceal themselves from their prey.

They also display a rocking behavior, in which they make rhythmic, repetitive side-to-side movements.  This rocking movement allows them to resemble vegetation swaying  in the wind.

Us as gardeners can encourage mantises as a form of biological pest control by not using toxic pesticides in our gardens.  So when doing your spring cleaning in your gardens keep a keen eye out for the mantids oothecae.  You could have a natural and free insect control in your garden.  Not a lot of gardeners are fortunate for mantids to take up residence in their gardens, but don’t be disheartened mantids eggs can be purchased from garden catalogs and some nurseries.

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Elton John Rocking Colorado Springs

th_100_6215-11Yesterday was a cold, blustery and snowy day, not a day for gardening.  The best thing my wife and I thought to do was go to a concert.  Actually, we had planned the concert for awhile, but after being cooped up in the house it was perfect.  Going to see Elton John perform was perfect medicine to help us out of our bored and dreary mood.

The show started at 8:00 Pm and ended around 10:45 Pm and Sir Elton John did not disappoint us and the rest of the sold out crowd at the World Area.  When we first arrived all we saw on stage was just his piano.  I thought to myself, no back up band?  I had not seen Elton John before, and I found out immediately he did not need a back up band.  From his instrumentals to his well known ballads he displayed the extraordinary talents that landed him in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Continue reading

Colorado Springs Horticultural Art Society (HAS) Spring Plant Sale

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Looking for that special shrub, perennials, or annual?  Come to the annual Colorado Springs Horticultural Art Society’s  (HAS) Spring Plant Sale.  The plant sale will be conducted from May 15-17 2009, Friday and Saturday 9:00-5:00 PM and Sunday 10:00-4:00 PM.  The location is the HAS Demonstration Garden at Cache la Poudre and Glen Ave. 

If you are looking for a bargain, and who isn’t these days, check out the Dug and Donated plants.  These are plants that fellow gardeners have dug up out of their gardens, repotted and donated to the HAS to sell.  You will find wonderful established plants at a great price.  For more information on the plant sale check out the HAS website at http://hasgardens.com/home.  The photo is from the HAS website.  I will see you there.