After tirelessly tilling, sowing and tending to your garden, you wait. And wait. Then one day you venture out to pull some weeds, only to find that bugs have eaten away your crops! Take a deep breath. You will get through this! If you lean towards the organic gardening methodology, then poisonous weed killers are simply not an option for preventive measures. Instead, what you can do for future protection is search your property for an ootheca!
An ootheca is simply a praying mantis egg sack. In the fall, the mantis will lay her sack on a tree branch or in tall grass. One case holds anywhere from 50-200 babies! The case will lay dormant in the winter and once they experience up to six weeks of warm temperatures, they hatch. The tiny mantis go through the narrow slits of the egg case and immediately invade your garden. Gardeners love these little warriors since they attack almost any insect they come in contact with.
We've noticed the sacks in our yard over the past few years and didn't pay much attention to them. Now that my boys know what they are, their eyes are peeled while climbing trees or playing in the backyard! They even are selling ootheca sacks on eBay for a competitive price!
We kept this entertaining mantis in with our turtles this past summer. She even laid a sack in the tank! Shortly after, she died, which is common with the praying mantis after laying her eggs. If you find one this time of year you can take several different measures. You can leave it alone if it is in a beneficial place for you. You can gently remove the sack from it's location. Try to keep it attached to the branch, leaf or stick that you find it on so you don't accidentally rip or tear it. If you are concerned about unusual warm weather in your area this winter then simply remove the sack and keep in the refrigerator, just don't freeze! Introduce it to warm weather in the spring and within 4-6 weeks it should hatch. Just be sure to place in your garden and not your kitchen counter or you will have some unwelcome visitors for dinner!
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