European praying mantid (Mantis religiosa)
This European praying mantid (Mantis religiosa) was found lurking in a consignment of melons in a warehouse in Rutherglen, Scotland in 1989. They are the most common and widespread mantid species in Europe. They are native to Southern and Central Europe, where they are usually found in uncut grassland and shrubs. According to the British Orthoptera recording scheme they have only been found in the UK on one occasion in East Sussex in 1959. These mantids occur outdoors in the Channel Islands but there is a Scottish report of a M. religiosa egg case imported on cork to East Kilbride in 2005.
This species was accidentally introduced to North America in 1899 and spread to Canada shortly after. The UK is one of the largest European markets for fresh melons and whilst a lot of imports historically came from Southern Europe, North America also exports these fruit. Consequently, the origin of our stowaway remains uncertain.
Praying mantids are not generally of quarantine concern because they are predatory. They predate a huge range of insects (even each other) indiscriminately, they reduce the number of pests but also the number of beneficial insects.