Praying Mantis (Various)


Class: Insecta
Order: Dictyoptesa
Family:    Mantidae
Size:    Length: 0.5 to 6 inches (1.25 to 15 cm)
Weight: Unknown
Diet: Grasshoppers, spiders, beetles, butterflies, other mantises, mice and hummingbirds
Distribution: Worldwide

10 to 300 eggs

Animal Predators:  Birds, bats and wasps
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Young: Nymph
Lifespan: Up to 1 year



·         The name “mantis” comes from a Greek word meaning “prophet” or “soothsayer.”

·         There are about 2,000 species of mantises.

·         Female mantises are larger than the males.

·         They belong to the same order as cockroaches.

·         Praying mantises are the only insects that can turn their heads from side to side in a full 180-degree angle.

·         The European praying mantis is the state insect of Connecticut.



Praying mantises, like all insects, have six jointed legs; a three-part body consisting of a thorax, head and abdomen; and two antennae. Those found in tropical regions are brightly coloured and resemble flowers to such a degree that insects will land right on them, while those in the north often resemble a leaf or twig, enabling them to rest quietly until unsuspecting prey passes by. Although they have wings and can fly, they usually sit quietly on a plant so they can go undetected. The head of the mantis is triangular with large, well-developed compound eyes that are far apart to allow the best possible binocular vision, enabling them to spot movement up to 60 feet (18 m) away. Their front legs are long and are armoured with spines that are extremely sharp and used to stab prey. Mantises then use their very powerful jaws to devour their prey. 



Mantises are native to warm, tropical regions, but during the 1920s, several different species were introduced to areas such as the United States and southern Canada to help control other insect populations who were destroying gardens and crops. The introduced species are from two to four inches long (5 to 10 cm) and are green or brown in colour. Native to the States is the Carolina mantis, as well as the California mantis. Mantises can also be found in South America, Australia, Africa and southern Eurasia.   


Feeding Habits

Mantises are strictly carnivorous. They have voracious appetites and prey on many types of insects, including grasshoppers, spiders, beetles, butterflies, other mantises and even mice or hummingbirds. If caught by a human, they do not bite, but will take a finger in between their serrated forelegs, creating a slight pinch. Those same forelegs enable them to hold a struggling victim in their clutches, before biting the neck to paralyse it and then eating it alive with its powerful jaws. 



Mating season occurs in the summer, and in some species, the female eats the head of the male during courtship rituals. The headless male will then mate with the female, who eats the rest of him afterwards. The female then lays several groups of eggs in a cluster of approximately an inch (2.5 cm) or so in length. The eggs are encased in a sticky mass—called an ootheca—that hardens after the female has attached it to a tree branch, a fence post or the stem of a sturdy plant. Adult mantises usually die off by autumn. The eggs hatch the next spring into nymphs (wingless immature insects) that immediately begin preying on each other as well as on aphids and small flies or other tiny garden insects. The nymphs go through a series of moults before they begin to resemble adult mantises.



Praying mantises obtained their name from the way they sit, with their front legs folded as if in prayer when at rest or searching for food. Praying mantises are preyed on by birds, but their effective camouflage often means that they are overlooked, as long as they are still. 



Praying mantises are not a conservation concern. 



Praying Mantis Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US