Every year Declan (age 13) and Aidan (age 11) of plot 35 raise painted lady butterflies and praying mantises. This started one year as a birthday gift, and has become an annual tradition.
We get mail-order butterfly larva and watch them develop into caterpillars and then form their chrysalises. When the butterflies emerge, we cut up orange slices to put in the butterfly house for them to feed on. Declan and Aidan enjoy watching the butterflies up close for a few days. We keep an eye on the weather to make sure that it will be above 60 degrees at night so our butterflies will survive outside. We also must be vigilant to keep our two cats away from the butterflies. When the weather is right, Declan and Aidan take the butterflies to the garden and release them in our plot. We hope that the butterflies can survive and continue to reproduce in the garden.
Two years ago, we added praying mantises to our beneficial insect routine. When we receive them in the mail, the mantids are still encases in an egg capsule called an ootheca. Female mantids lay their eggs every autumn, arranged in a spherical structure that looks like it is covered in leaves. There are anywhere from 50 to 500 eggs in each ootheca but only about .3% of those will survive to adulthood. After the mantids hatch, we release them pretty quickly to the garden. They are great escape artists and can get out of the insect enclosure we have for them and before you know it you could have a thousand tiny praying mantises all over your house. At the garden they will eat aphids, mosquitoes, and even lanternflies.
After we release the butterflies and mantids into the garden, Declan and Aidan like looking for the rest of the summer to see if any have survived and are continuing their life cycle.
Stay tuned for an update on the butterflies and mantids emerging and released into the garden.
—Kate Kern Mundie