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Mantises could be the answer to your stink bug problem

Wednesday - 4/24/2013, 11:16am  ET

Praying Mantis egg casings in David Burd's bushes. (WTOP/David Burd)

FREDERICK, Md. - While standing in line at a bank in Frederick, Md., I overheard the man in front of me say to the teller: "Hey did those egg casings take care of the stink bug problem?"

Stop everything.

Did he just say stink bug and problem solved in the same sentence? Time to go into reporter mode.

The man I overheard was David Heisler, a farmer from Comus, Md. A big believer in biodiversity, he uses nature to help with his crops and other problems. He also has a market across the highway from The Comus Inn at Sugarloaf Mountain. I said to David, "Please, please tell me what you said to the teller about stink bugs."

David said he has praying mantis egg casings on his property and the mantises love to eat stink bugs. A few years back David, along with us all, suffered when stink bugs made their debut in the Maryland region -- at least in numbers that could infest.

You've probably seen a praying mantis in your backyard at one time or another. Most people are freaked out by their looks -- they look like something from a bad Japanese horror movie. But don't be put off by the strange appearance. These guys are a gardener's friend.

Heisler told me not only does a praying mantis eat stink bugs, but they eat Japanese beetles (the killer of roses and other plants) and flies. Have you ever seen a praying mantis on your screen door? No, he's not waiting for you to come out and play -- he's looking for flies.

Egg casings for praying mantises can be found in your bushes. Check out the pictures to see what they look like. Each casing can house from 10 to a 100 baby praying mantises. When I'm mowing my lawn I always see them along the fence line. I keep an old peanut butter jar with holes in the top to store these guys when I see them. Then, they're released into my garden. No more Japanese beetles and no more stink bugs.

If you look closely on the chest of one of these praying mantises, you'll see a tiny red "S" on their chest - that's because they truly are super when it comes to dealing with insects that can hurt your garden.

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