Welcoming a beneficial backyard visitor | RecordCourier.com

Welcoming a beneficial backyard visitor

Autumn is upon us and I've been doing seasonal yard cleanup during the last several weeks. The other day, I was pruning an olive tree and reached around the back of the trunk to clear some low-lying branches. As I pulled the trimmings away, something scuttled up the rough bark.

The size and speed of the critter startled me, and I may or may not have let out a little shriek as I reflexively jumped back. It took just a moment for curiosity to get the better of me, and I slowly peered around the trunk to see what had startled me so.

The pivoting head of a praying mantis turned to meet my wide-eyed stare. The insect's tannish brown coloring cleverly camouflaged its large body against the bark, and I never would have seen it were it not for the sudden movement. After breathing a sigh of relief, I reached out a gloved hand to gently pick it up and called my two sons over for a look.

The mantis rotated its head to watch us with enormous eyes as it moved along the surface of our open hands. Several times we offered a branch to let it go, but it seemed content to hang out with us for a bit.

The fullness of the mantis' abdomen indicated that we were probably getting acquainted with a female. Eggs are produced in a female mantis' abdomen, laid in the fall, then covered with a foamy substance that hardens to keep them protected through winter. Come spring, tiny nymphs emerge from the eggs and begin eating nearby insects (and sometimes each other). The lifespan for a mantis that makes it through those first frenetic moments ranges from about 6 months to 1 year, although females often eat the males after mating.

Praying mantises are a gardener's best friend because they feast on other insects that are often harmful to vegetation. Their spiny forelegs (which make them appear to be "praying") help them hold down prey as they devour it alive, and their powerful jaws can penetrate other insects' exoskeletons with ease. Larger praying mantises can even eat small reptiles and birds.

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Praying mantises are said to bring good luck, and I've read that some people keep them as pets. After a few minutes, however, we were happy to release our newfound friend back into the wild. Hopefully we'll have a plethora of praying mantises in the yard come spring.

Elks Bingo tonight

It's Bingo night at the Tahoe/Douglas Elks Lodge, 1227 Kimmerling Road, in the Gardnerville Ranchos.

Doors open at 5 p.m., warm-ups start at 6, and regular games get underway at 6:30. Players must be at least 21 years of age, and refreshments will be available.

The next Bingo night at the Lodge will be held Oct. 20.

Oktoberfest golf tournament next weekend

Carson Valley Golf Course (CVGC) hosts the "Wurst Golf Tournament Ever!" on Oct. 14 with a 10 a.m. shotgun start. The $40 fee includes lunch, beer, and prizes.

Call 775-265-3181 to sign up. CVGC is located at 1027 Riverview Drive in the Gardnerville Ranchos.

Amy Roby can be reached at ranchosroundup@hotmail.com.

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