Garden Help Desk: What should I do about this mystery in my shrubs?
I found this on one of my shrubs. What on earth is that thing? Should I be spraying something?
Lucky you! This is a Praying mantis oothecae, or egg case. It started out as a foamy structure surrounding the eggs and hardened into a protective case for them. Somewhere in your landscape there could be a few young praying mantises looking for other insects to eat.
Praying mantises are related to katydids and grasshoppers, but they eat insects instead of plants. You can find praying mantis egg cases for sale at garden centers and many gardeners buy them hoping the praying mantises will help with insect pests in their gardens.
Unfortunately, a praying mantis isn’t too particular about its diet and will eat any insect it can catch — bad guys like grasshoppers and bean beetles, but also good guys like pollinators and other predators, including other praying mantises.
Your oothecae was deposited on the branch last fall and young nymphs hatched out this spring. Some may have been eaten by their siblings or by other predators, but a few will be on the job. They’ll blend into the background as they rest or hunt, so you probably won’t see them in your landscape.
Courtesy Meredith Seaver
Praying mantises are easily recognized when they’re noticed. The triangular shape of their heads and their folded forelegs are distinctive. The sharp spines on their forelegs help them to easily catch their prey.
There’s no need to do any spraying. Let all the insects in your natural pest control crew do their job.
I’m going out of town several times this summer. I want to take my houseplants out in my yard for the summer and put them on drippers so that they’ll get watered while I’m gone. Do I need to do anything special for them?
The easiest option for houseplants on vacation is to have a reliable friend or relative check in on them while you’re gone, but it’s not always practical to have a neighbor come into your home to do plant care when you’re away.
Make sure you choose a shady location for your plants. How much shade depends on the kinds of houseplants you have. Some houseplants need bright, indirect light and they’ll tolerate some morning sun, but not more than an hour or two, and never any midday-through-afternoon sun. Other indoor plants have lower light needs and their sun exposure should be limited to a short time in the early morning sunlight.
Courtesy Meredith Seaver
Your watering system must be reliable. Once your plants on outdoors and on drippers, test your setup to make sure the plants will be watered thoroughly. You should see at least some water drain from the pots.
You won’t be home to check on your plants frequently, so consider applying a systemic insecticide to protect your plants from pests. When you are home, inspect your plants frequently. Look for pest problems and signs of too much sun, heat or drought stress like wilting or poor color. Adjust the watering or location, if needed.
Don’t forget about your plants! Almost all houseplants are tropical or subtropical plants and can be damaged by cold temperatures. Play it safe — keep an eye on the weather forecast and begin bringing in your plants before overnight temperatures dip below the low 60s.
It’s easy for pests to travel indoors along with your plants. Even though you may have used a systemic insecticide before taking your plants outside, inspect them carefully for aphids, scale, white flies, spider mites and other pests before you bring your plants back into the house. Check the undersides of leaves, along stems and in flower or leaf buds. If you do find pests, you can use insecticidal soap or horticultural oil to control aphids, mites and white flies. For scale, you can also try applying rubbing alcohol with swabs or cotton balls. You’ll need to repeat these treatments about once a week for a few weeks. Check to label on your product for the best timing.