Praying mantids are excellent predatory insects seen in cashew plantations. They feed on a wide range of pests including bugs, moths, beetles, weevils, grasshoppers caterpillars, ants, spiders, etc.
A total of 16 species of praying mantids, belonging to seven families and ten subfamilies were recorded in cashew plantations. Among the families, Hymenopodidae and Mantidae members were represented by five species each. Whereas, Iridopterygidae Liturgusidae, Tarachodidae, Empusidae and Toxoderidae were represented by a single species only.
Though nymphs and adults of various mantid species were sporadically noticed from the mid-rainy season (July) to the summer season (April), mantids were frequent during the flushing and flowering periods of cashew. Different niche requirements were witnessed for different praying mantid species.
Among the mantids, Eunatissa pulchra and Ephestiasula pictipes dominate the canopy area, while, Humbertiella similis dominate the trunk region of cashew followed by E. lata.
Some mantid species can be reared successfully under laboratory conditions using several prey insects including greater wax moth larvae as prey. Mantid species having advantageous characteristics like high fertility, high fecundity, shorter life cycle, multi-voltinism, and suitability for captive breeding are amenable for mass culture and inundative releases in the fields. These mantids appear to be potential candidates for the biological control of insect pests of cashew and can be integrated into future IPM strategies. Nevertheless, strategies are required to ensure the establishment of the mantids and their further conservation in the cashew plantations to assess pest management efficiency.
Photo credit to mantids: K. Vanitha, ICAR- DCR, Puttur