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Everyone’s Favorite Insect

By Chris Williams on February 11, 2012.

Insects are without a doubt our greatest competitors here on planet Earth.  Worldwide crop losses due to insects and other pests are estimated to be about 48% of production every year.  Another 25% of this production is lost in storage predominately due to insects and mites.  Insects (invasive forest insects) cost US taxpayers and homeowners billions of dollars in lost property values every year. http://biology.cos.ucf.edu/2011/10/insects-cost-homeowners-taxpayers-billions/

Termites easily cause additional millions of dollars worth of property damage for homeowners each year in the U.S.  What’s even worse than the property damage, is all the pain, suffering, and death of people and animals worldwide that succumb to insect-borne diseases.  Yes, some insects can have a pretty bad reputation, but in the grand scheme of things (of the 2 million species that we know about) only a relative handful are ‘bad actors’.  Most are perfectly willing to share the planet, and their life styles are inconsequential to us.  Many insects are also extremely beneficial.  All the fabulous fruit I harvest every season because of the pollen and nectar gathering action of different bees in my orchard, and I say to myself, what a great deal!!  Well, bees are fantastic, and the lady beetles do a great job of keeping aphids in check in the garden, but neither has any ‘personality.’ My all-time favorite garden insect is the praying (or is it preying mantid?) mantis.  It’s got personality in spades!  I’m a big fan of these fascinating insects, and I have plenty of company judging by the numbers of websites devoted to them. http://www.theprayingmantis.org/index.php

The link above is fun to visit and features many other links to mantis oriented websites including how to keep them as pets.  In case you might be wondering if I ever kept praying mantises as pets, well of course!  Whenever I’d spot one as a kid (usually around mid-August) I’d go scrounging around my house for an empty pickle or peanut butter jar, and a few twigs for my new pal to perch on.  Then, I’d go searching for crickets, grasshoppers, and even spiders (just to see what would happen!) to feed my friend. I’d keep it for a couple of weeks and then let it go. Strange guy you must be thinking, so you shouldn’t be surprised when I tell you that I used to feed the spiders around my yard too!  I’ve always had a soft spot (maybe in the head!) for creatures that must hunt to survive, like birds of prey, spiders, all cats of course, and predatory insects.  And the coolest of ALL the predatory insects are the praying manids.

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