Praying mantis is a local fixture

I saw a praying mantis in the wild for the first time the other day! It was on a wall, and when I moved around it trying to get the best angle for a photo, its head followed me perfectly like it was on a swivel. Are these amazing insects common to the area?

—Name not given, Medford

On a swivel?

That's probably because they're the only species of insect that can turn their heads 180 degrees.

Even if you'd been making your movement up to 60 feet away, they would have been able to track you because of their five eyes; two large ones with three smaller ones in between.

But to answer your question, yes, we have praying mantises in the region.

This is according to Linda Brown, plant clinic volunteer and Master Gardener at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center. She says there are 2,300 species of the bug around the world, 20 in North America and two in Southern Oregon. The two species are the California and Chinese varieties. Both are voracious eaters of garden pests, but sometimes they go too far in their feeding.

"They'll eat the good pests along with the bad pests," Brown said.

The Chinese variety can grow up to 4 inches long, while the California variety grows only up to two inches. Both make successful kills about 85 percent of the time. Both lay their eggs in the fall, which is right around the corner, up to as many as 1,400 of them.

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