While most people think of the praying mantis as a relatively docile green insect, these insects can be found in many shades of green and brown, and they are one of the most deadly predators in your garden.
Many gardeners (this one included) have purchased beneficial praying mantis egg cases (ootheca) online with the dream of a friendly hunter to combat aphids, caterpillars, moths, and earwigs. Unfortunately, the praying mantis isn't very discriminating. They will eat whatever they can capture, good or bad. Also, many of the online varieties are actually from other countries. The Chinese Mantid can grow large enough to capture, kill, and eat a hummingbird!
The best way to attract native praying mantis to your garden is to provide a welcoming habitat free of pesticides and herbicides. If mantis hatchlings will find that your yard does not have enough food to warrant staying, they soon leave.
In addition to being a good addition to your garden, Praying mantis are also said to make interesting pets...
UPDATE: On 4/21/16, the egg case came to life! Tiny praying mantes emerged and began devouring pests almost immediately!
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!