A Mantid’s Prayer…
Written by: Sumati Shah, Go Go Green Thumbs
… wait until mid-May to collect your garden debris.
The birds are singing, the bulbs are sprouting, and the pollinators are waking from their slumber.
The season of greening is truly underway…May is just around the corner and every green thumb is feeling the itch to get to the clean up and be ready for planting.
Don’t scratch that itch just yet! It’s a message that bears repeating: Pollinators and so many other insects, many which even we consider beneficial…. are overwintering in those bits of garden debris!
All the wee creatures hibernate and cocoon in the fragile stems and leaves of last year’s garden debris.
Rule of Green Thumbs: leave garden debris until mid May
There are a million ‘green initiatives’ you can become involved in. You can buy running shoes made from ocean plastics and somewhere something is made better.
But the greatest impact you can have, the one where your effect is immediate and existential, is that pile of yucky looking sorta sloppy wet leaves in the corners of your yard and at the base of shrubs and plants.
It’s a change you can make where the bugs live, and you win!
Mantids are one of those beneficial insects you’ll be praying are somewhere in your garden when you find a patch of aphids munching on your tender plants.
Their lifecycle relies on twigs and branches – usually perennial stems, about 1-2’ off the ground and with nearby cover (like that pile of leaves at the bottom). The Praying Mantis begins feeding from the time they hatch and has a diet that adapts and grows along with their size.
They’re like vigilant sentries by the end of the season: standing in perfect stillness as they await their meal’s arrival. Just before the frosts arrive in autumn, the adults lay eggs on those perennial stems inside a frothy cocoon, sometimes more than once, before they succumb to the temperatures of winter. In mid May when the nymphs emerge from the small loofah looking cocoons they head for cover and disperse.
Newly-emerged praying mantis nymphs
There’s a world of life that literally and metaphorically springs from the former glory of last summer’s remains. Beneficial insects are one of those ‘green initiatives’ that you don’t have to buy – although you can purchase Mantid Nymphs for aphid control – you just need to be willing to wait a little bit before getting rid of the detritus.
If you really do need to do the tidy up ASAP – maybe you can leave it loosely piled in a different location for a few more weeks and give the winter slumberers the time they need to wake up.
Your garden will thank you for it, and if you see the praying mantis in the summer, they’ll be repaying you by enjoying their meals at home.
My garden isn’t a pretty place to look at … yet. Perennials big and small are still standing mostly crumpled and half fallen, or clumped up and messy…and then I found a mantis’s egg cocoon.
The garden has it’s own life, and that’s why we love it!