It was just over a week ago when Matteo Craig was waiting to catch a bus at Woodgrove Centre in Nanaimo when he caught something else instead, a praying mantis.
“The first thing I thought was how did this get here?” said Craig.
There beside him was a praying mantis also known as the Europen Mantis. He managed to capture it and take it home.
“It was super exciting. I’ve always wanted a praying mantis but I’ve never had one and obviously, you can’t find them around here because they’re not native to here,” said Craig.
Craig is one of a growing number of people who have found one on Vancouver Island. Emily Wharin has documented the discovery of two praying mantes in Parksville.
“I was quite surprised. I mean I’ve never seen a praying mantis in the wild in B.C. in general,” said Wharin. “I noticed it was one of the most northern sightings so I was kind of excited.”
Praying mantises were introduced to the Okanagan in the 1930s to control grasshoppers.
“It didn’t work very well because they’re not very specific in what they catch but the invasive species has since become established there,” said Dr. Rob Cannings, the curator emeritus of entomology at the Royal BC Museum.
“The females lay their eggs in a frothy mass that sticks to rocks or fence posts or buildings or cars or trailers so they can be transported that way,” he said.
On Vancouver Island, the first sightings were in 1991 and 1999 and slowly they’ve been showing up with increasing frequency.
Of the 24 European Mantis sightings documented on Vancouver Island on iNaturalist, 75 per cent have been in the last two years. Cannings says there was also one recorded in Victoria last week.
“They’re adapted to surviving in European climates and ours isn’t much different than western Europe so they’re preadapted to the kinds of summers and winters and climate we have here so it shouldn’t be too difficult for them to live here. It’s just a matter of getting a foothold so they’re here and I guess they’re here to stay,” said Cannings.
Though Cannings says people shouldn’t release mantises out in the wild or purposely propagate the insects.
Though the European mantis can be green or brown in colour it should not be confused with the Chinese mantis which can be bought in stores but doesn’t survive outdoors on Vancouver Island.
While praying mantis normally hunt other bugs they’ve been known to even prey on hummingbirds but Cannings says they shouldn’t upset the Island’s biodiversity.
“These upper-level predators general have small populations and I don’t think that it’s going to become a real problem with respect to native populations of other insects.”
Cannings published research into the expansion of the praying mantis in B.C. in 2007.
The Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship says the B.C. government does not track the presence of praying mantises.