When you live in the frozen tundra that Ohio sometimes becomes and you feel as though winter will never end, you find things to do to help it pass more quickly. I like to go walkabout through the garden and around the property to see what there is to see at a time when most people would prefer to stay warm inside.
A yearly winter activity for me is to go around observing and counting the praying mantis egg cases. Seen in abundance in our gardens throughout summer, praying mantises are more than welcome here.
I've seen them in all sizes, from teeny weeny baby ones just emerging from an egg case...
|May 26, 2007|
...to a little bit larger, wandering about or lying in wait for prey...
...and even larger, when they get too big for their skin...
|A praying mantis will molt six to ten times throughout its life.|
...to full-sized, when they just love to stare me down.
I found 19 vital egg cases today, every one of them on the hedge of Van Houtte spiraea (Spiraea x vanhouttei), clearly their preferred location, where several blackened cases still remain from previous years. The current year's egg cases remind me of spun brown sugar, even glistening in the sun as if that's just what they were made of.
|The tan cases are about the size of a walnut.|
In late summer, when the female mantis has mated, she finds a branch well above the ground, where she releases a whipped cream-like foam from the ovipositor at the end of her abdomen. Before it hardens, she deposits anywhere from 50 to 300 eggs in the foam. After it hardens, the egg case (called an ootheca) will protect the eggs and developing mantids from predators like ants and spiders, as well as snow and wind. In late spring, when it warms sufficiently, all the mantids will emerge from the egg case at once.
Have you been able to find any egg cases on branches in your yard?