How long do they stick around?
Driving home from music lessons, my son and I saw a baby praying mantis on the windshield. While I tried my best to keep him from jumping off in the 5 miles from school to home, he escaped about 1.3 of a mile home. My question: Even if we got him (or her) home, how long would he/she stick around my garden?
P.S. We named him Manny (Praying Manuel).
That's sort of an unanswerable question. They'll stick around as long as there's food. Or, if a strong wind comes along, they might fly off with it. They also might abandon a territory in order to search for a mate. If the female deposits an egg case in your garden, she'll stick around to guard it. They can take three weeks or three months to hatch, depending on the weather, so she'd try to stick around for that long.
Even if they stick around, though, you might not know it. They're masters of camouflage. (That said, when I was a kid, there was one that would show up every night on our kitchen window, just as we were doing the dishes. Every night. Same place.)
One thing that's really cool to do with kids (and adults!) is to buy a praying mantis egg at the nursery. Make a screened in cage for it, provide some leaves for cover, and wait for the little ones to hatch. You'll wake up one morning to find hundreds of miniature mantids staring out at you, waiting for their breakfast of aphids. You can release most of them, reserving a couple in the cage to nurture. They actually become very tame. You can handle them, and sometimes they'll even take food from your hand.
The eggs might be hard to find now; it's a little late in the season, at least at my local nursery. It might be worth checking, though.
Back when I was in colledge, I used to ocassionally, find praying mantises (or is that manti?) wandering around the urban blocks around campus. When I did I would carefully trnasport them home (often by letting them crawl onto the front of my shirt!) and let them run around my aprtment for a day or two, it was sort of a mutual benefit thing, they got a day or two in a bird free environment, and I got an apartment free of flies (my apartment had a big fly problem). After a day or two I'd let the mantis go in a nice quiet grassy medow. It sort of helped that most of the mantis's I found were the small stocky green kind with the yellow and black spots on thier forlegs, rather than the really big skinny green to brown ones I had grown up with. One of them who due to a long spell of bad weather had to stay in my apartemnt for a very long time did indeed become rather tame and did indeed take food from my hand, inculding some very suprising things, it LOVED Lo mein, (found out when it walked over to a basically empty takeut box, grabbed a noodle off the side and began to much it)