Butterfly-predacious Mantids

Michael Gochfeld gochfeld at eohsi.rutgers.edu
Thu Aug 6 08:59:50 EDT 1998

Mantids are excellent butterfly predators.  Unlike the hornets and 
dragonflies, they are ambush predators, and are incredibly patient. 
You can get rid of those pesky skippers and swallowtails with a few 
well-placed mantids in your butterfly bush.

I've watched several mantids in our bush through the years (I don't have 
enough patience to watch them often).  I haven't yet seen one take a bee 
or wasp, they seem to specialize on butterflies. Maybe that's a New 
Jersey preversity. 

One thing I have studied is the prey of ambush bugs and crab spiders.  
There is a strong preponderance of Cabbage Whites.  I'm trying to 
figure out whether this is because dangling White butterflies attract 
my attention (I miss more subtly-colored species), or whether Cabbage 
Whites are simply the most abundant prey available, or whether the 
predators select flowers that are attractive to the most abundant 
species.  One of our students suggested that butteflies are merely 
occasional snacks for these predators which eat mainly small 
hymenopterans and dipterans. 

M. Gochfeld

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