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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Local green thumb suggests a natural way to control garden pests

Local gardener Bob Verkoeyen of Essex, who is a member of several local horticultural clubs, urges other green thumbs to consider using a natural pest control method in their gardens. By caring for Oothecas, and waiting for young Praying Mantises to emerge, the small insects will help eliminate other bugs that could wreak havoc on garden greens.

by Sylene Argent

Essex’s Bob Verkoeyen considers himself an avid gardener, with a keen interest helping the environment, not harming it.

  So, with the knowledge he has been able to garner over his years out in the garden, Verkoeyen is suggesting other green thumbs adopt a natural pest control method he uses.

  The method includes finding an Ootheca on a twig, which is a foam a female Praying Mantis creates for her eggs in the fall, at the end of her own life. He suggests obtaining one in the spring from an area that has a few in abundance.

  Using a glass jar, with a small-holed window screen cover at the top, and some dampened paper towels within, gardeners can care for the Ootheca and its contents by placing it in a warm place. In around two to eight weeks, likely hundreds of baby Praying Mantises will emerge into the jar. They will likely hatch in around a three-hour period, he said.

  Verkoeyen recommends keeping a close eye on the Ootheca as the young insects should be released relatively quickly, as they are hungry and may feast upon each other if necessary. Once hatched, he suggest releasing the baby insects into areas of foliage in the garden, where they will get cover from birds and other predators and will begin to naturally prey upon other insects known to wreak havoc on garden greens.

  “They are the perfect predators,” Verkoeyen said of the Praying Mantis, pointing out they see in 3D. The insect has five eyes (two bulbous compound eyes and three small simple eyes).

  “They have amazing jumping capability and are masters of camouflage,” Verkoeyen added. “They are the prefect, natural pest control because the will lie still on a branch, waiting for prey, like grasshoppers, crickets, and squash bugs.”

  Verkoeyen warns there have been a few, rare reports of Praying Mantises killing hummingbirds. “If you see a Praying Mantis near a hummingbird feeder, gently pick it up and relocate it, namely to the garden, where you want them,” he urged.

  Verkoeyen’s love of nature, and God’s creations, he said, stems from his childhood of being taught how to survive off the land and having an Indigenous background.

  Log onto to view a detailed video Verkoeyen made on how to care for the Ootheca.  Anyone with questions can private message Verkoeyen on Facebook.

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