Monday, September 03, 2001

Mantises preying on bug bonanza

By Mike Pulfer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It's been a hot, wet summer, and don't think the bugs haven't appreciated it. At least the ones that didn't get eaten by other bugs.

        Praying mantises, which dine on other insects, have thrived on the thousands of bugs that are enjoying Greater Cincinnati's rainy weather. Normally about 3 inches long as adults, the predators are as long as 5 inches this year.

        That's why you've seen more mantises this month, possibly larger, greener and healthier than usual.

        “This has been one of the buggiest summers I've seen in long time,” says Bery Pannkuk, technical director at Scherzinger, a Pleasant Ridge pest-control company. “I think it's because of the nice steamy warm weather and rain we've had this year ... I haven't seen a Cincinnati August this green in years.”

        Because of the weather, “There's an unlimited supply of bugs out there,” he says.

        “The more food there is, the more they (praying mantises) survive, and the larger they get.”

        Milan Busching, curator of invertebrates (entomologist) at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, acknowledged a warmer-than-usual summer, saying, “With sufficient prey, you will have a decent survival rate and see a fair number this time of year.”

        We're seeing praying mantises now, he says, because they have grown to adult stage — as long as 5 inches, with wings. (They were unable to fly in the nymph stage, starting at a half-inch in length).

        “They are very useful, beneficial,” he says. “They are good things to have in your garden.”

        While mantises' prayers for an abundant supply of smaller insects apparently have been answered, their culinary ecstasy will be short lived.

        Praying mantises, like most other insects, will disappear with the first frosts of fall.


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