Harmony in the Garden Blog

Praying mantis nests for the tough-to-please teenager


Engaging older kids in the garden is definitely not as easy as it was when they were young.  

It takes a little more craftiness than having their own ‘big kid shovel’ to lure some of these kids back into the garden, so I’m always willing to try  something new.

One foolproof method is finding anything that’s the slightest bit icky – such as my mushroom experiment.

But one of my biggest success stories to date has been praying mantis nests.

You can usually find containers of praying mantis nests at your local nursery during early spring and summer for about $7.00 for a package of two.  

We’ve purchased them in the past, always hoping they’d hatch and provide us with at least one praying mantis that we can watch throughout the summer.

Being somewhat territorial insects, praying mantis tend to hang out in one location in the garden, so it’s always fun to have an ‘easter egg hunt’ of sorts to try and find where it’s hiding.

We always keep these little nests in a warm location in the house, in a covered plastic terrarium so we can watch their progress.

This time, I was fortunate enough to walk by at the exact moment the nest began to explode with babies emerging from their cocoon.  

I quickly placed them out in the garden as these little babies have voracious appetites when they first emerge.

If you can find an aphid-covered rosebush, or some other such buffet, they will start feasting immediately! Be careful, though, because as soon as the little birds in your garden get wind that you’re setting out their next meal, they’ll swoop down and start their own feast (which is a little traumatic, even for those hardened teenagers) .

Yesterday I found a young one, who is now a few weeks old. 

It’s only about 1″ long, but if it survives the birds, it’ll grow to be as long as 6 – 7″.

And don’t forget, they’re not only a great way to engage your kids in the garden, but they’re wonderful as pest management!


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  • I have found 6 nests so far while cleaning up the garden for Spring. I have marked them all with a flag so no one bothers them. Is there anything else I can do to keep them safe from birds and other predators until they hatch. I was thinking of maybe wrapping wedding tule very loosely around the branches to keep them safe?

    I am in zone 7a Bethesda, Maryland we do not heat up consistently until May. From what I have read they may start to hatch when temps are consistent between 70-80 degrees. It would be so cool to see them hatch and grow.

    Thanks for any advice!

    • Hi Irene, in my experience (and I have LOTS of nests in my garden) I haven’t seen anything attack or eat the nests. Once they hatch, however, that’s when the chaos begins with lizards, birds, etc. helping themselves to the tiny little babies. Luckily, though, each nests hatches a zillion little praying mantis babies. I’ve brought nests into the house before (in a jar with holes punched in the lid) and kept a close eye on them and have been lucky enough to watch them emerge. Then, I quickly run out and place them around the garden in different areas, hoping a few survive until adulthood. I wish you the best of luck – your tule idea is clever (plus, I don’t think birds could get trapped in it either, which is good!)

  • We found one on our property and had marked it so the landscaper guys who trim everything back wouldn’t mess with it. However the message wasn’t passed along to a helper they had so the Branch was cut. I put it inside our kids butterfly netted cage with some leaves. Any advice on what to do?

    • I’m so sorry they cut the branch! My advice would be to keep a close eye on it – checking it a few times a day. Once the nest hatches, it all happens pretty fast and those little praying mantis will need to be moved outside asap before they start devouring each other (definitely not something you want your little kiddos to see!) Good luck!

  • When I was a kid in Ohio we would catch praying mantises and feed them grasshoppers- then we could enjoy the spectacle of hunting, capture, and feasting up close.

    Now I just enjoy their grace and power without the hapless hopper part.
    Positive Massage Therapy

  • This IS super cool, but I’m laughing at the irony of praying mantises AND chickens to eat them, both for the hard-to-please teen. 😉

  • Very cool! I hadn’t realized you could buy a nest like this. Seems a bit risky though, if you’re not home when they hatch, to you arrive to some sort of last bug standing scenario?

  • Great post! After not finding my yearly mantis until the end of SEPTEMBER last year, I was really glad to see she left at least two of these eggs cases behind (I looked them up, they’re called ‘ootheca!’ This year I have at least a dozen, and that’s just the ones I’ve seen! The day I see one eating a baby snail or a slug will be a happy one indeed (do they?) Any flowery bush that gets visited a lot is a great home, and I like how you mentioned that they hang around the same spot. And they do get big; last year mine caught a little tree frog when she was in her prime. Eww. Too bad my kids are no longer teens!


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