The praying mantis is a vital garden predator; the equivalent of a mountain lion in the chaparral insect world. As a top predator, it helps to keep a natural balance of pollinating, plant-eating and decomposing insects in our restored habitat.
Too often, these predator insects are imported. I have done it myself at times when native species of praying mantis and ladybugs were rare in our yard. I have also guarded egg casings to help make sure that these predators reproduced in our yard.
When I spotted this praying mantis, it looked unusual. The wide abdomen and short wings made me think it was an introduced species–such as a Chinese mantis or Carolina mantis.
Much to my surprise, the deeper I went in to the Bug Guide, the more I realized this is actually a California mantis (Stagmomantis californica). It has been so long since I have seen one of our natives in the yard, I didn't recognize it. I believe it is a female, because of the large size of the abdomen. (male vs female mantids)
Where did I find this native mantis? It was on one of our native sages, hunting for native insects. Native plants are vital to native insects of all kinds.