A Praying Mantis, or praying mantid, is the common name for an insect of the order Mantodea. These insects are notorious predators and their name is sometime mistakenly spelled ‘Preying Mantis’ which is incorrect. They are in fact named for the typical ‘prayer-like’ stance.
There are approximately 2,000 mantid species worldwide. The majority are found in Asia. About 20 species are native to the USA.
Like all insects, a praying mantis has a three segmented body, with a head, thorax and abdomen. The abdomen is elongated and covered by the wings in adults.
Females have strong and large cerci (paired appendages on the rear-most segments). The first segment on their thorax, the prothorax, is elongated and from it arises the modified foreleg.
Praying Mantis Senses
The Praying Mantis has huge compound eyes mounted on a triangular head and have a large range of vision. They use sight for detecting movement of prey and swivel their heads to bring their prey into a binocular field of view.
They have a fully articulated head and are able to rotate it 180 degrees as well as pivot it. Their antennae are used for smell.
Praying Mantis Diet
Being a carnivorous insect, the praying mantis feeds primarily on other insects such as Fruit Flies, Crickets, Beetles, Moths and Bees. However, it is not uncommon for larger mantids to consume small reptiles, birds and even small mammals.
To capture their prey, mantids use their camouflage to blend in with the surroundings and wait for the prey to be within striking distance. They then use their raptorial front legs to quickly snatch the victim. It then uses the front legs to help position the victim so it may eat it better.
Praying Mantis Habitat
Praying mantids can be found in all parts of the world with mild winters and sufficient vegetation. Praying mantids will spend most of their time in a garden, forest or other vegetated area.
Praying Mantis Predators
The primary predators of the praying mantis are frogs, bats, monkeys, larger birds, spiders and snakes. Praying mantids will also prey on each other, usually during the nymph stage and during mating and also when there is no other prey.
Praying Mantis Defence
When threatened, praying mantids stand tall and spread their forelegs to allow them to penetrate the target, with their wings fanning out wide and mouths open. The fanning of the wings is used to make the mantis seem larger and to scare the opponent.
Some species have bright colors and patterns on their hind wings and inner surfaces of their front legs for this purpose. If harassment persists, the mantis will then strike with their forelegs and attempt to pinch, bite or slash its opponent. They also may make a hissing sound.
Mantids do not develop wings until the final molt. Some mantids do not develop wings at all, or may have small flightless wings. The only time mantids fly is when the adult female begins to emit pheromones which attract males for mating. Male mantids fly at night, as they seem to be attracted to artificial lights.
Praying Mantis Reproduction
The reproductive process in a majority of mantis species is marked by sexual cannibalism whereby the female eats the male after mating has taken place and is an ongoing subject of research.
Praying mantids start out life in an ootheca egg mass (an ootheca usually contains many eggs surrounded by a foam of protein which may then harden into a tough casing for protection).
Usually laid in the fall on a small branch or twig, the egg mass then hatches in the spring to early summer as warming temperatures signal the time for birth.
The natural life span of a praying mantis in the wild is about 10 – 12 months, but some mantids kept in captivity have been sustained for 14 months. In colder areas, female mantids will die during the winter.
Males tend to ‘suddenly’ die about 2 to 3 weeks after mating in the fall. This is usually caused by the females urge to kill off the male once the egg pouch has been produced.
Most North American mantids are not included among endangered species however species in other parts of the world are under threat from habitat destruction. The European Mantis (Mantis religiosa) is the state insect of Connecticut, but the General Statutes of Connecticut do not list any special protected status, it is a non-native species from Europe and Northern Africa.
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A Praying Mantis, or praying mantid, is an insect belonging to the order Mantodea. These insects are known for their predatory behavior and are named for their distinctive "prayer-like" stance. It is important to note that the correct spelling is "Praying Mantis," not "Preying Mantis".
Here are some key points about Praying Mantises:
Species: There are approximately 2,000 species of mantids worldwide, with the majority found in Asia. About 20 species are native to the United States.
Body Structure: Like all insects, a praying mantis has a three-segmented body, consisting of a head, thorax, and abdomen. The abdomen is elongated and covered by wings in adult mantises. Females have strong and large cerci, which are paired appendages on the rear-most segments. The first segment on their thorax, called the prothorax, is elongated and gives rise to the modified foreleg.
Senses: Praying mantises have huge compound eyes mounted on a triangular head, providing them with a large range of vision. They use their sight to detect the movement of prey and can swivel their heads to bring their prey into a binocular field of view. They also have antennae that are used for smell.
Diet: Praying mantises are carnivorous insects and primarily feed on other insects such as fruit flies, crickets, beetles, moths, and bees. However, larger mantids have been known to consume small reptiles, birds, and even small mammals. They use their camouflage to blend in with their surroundings and wait for prey to come within striking distance. They then use their raptorial front legs to quickly snatch the victim and position it for consumption.
Habitat: Praying mantises can be found in various parts of the world with mild winters and sufficient vegetation. They are commonly found in gardens, forests, and other vegetated areas.
Predators: Praying mantises have several predators, including frogs, bats, monkeys, larger birds, spiders, and snakes. They may also prey on each other, especially during the nymph stage, mating, or when there is a scarcity of other prey.
Defense Mechanisms: When threatened, praying mantises adopt a defensive posture by standing tall, spreading their forelegs, fanning out their wings, and opening their mouths. This behavior is intended to make them appear larger and scare off opponents. Some species have bright colors and patterns on their wings and legs for this purpose. If harassment persists, mantises may strike with their forelegs and attempt to pinch, bite, or slash their opponent. They may also make a hissing sound.
Reproduction: The reproductive process in most mantis species involves sexual cannibalism, where the female eats the male after mating. This phenomenon is an ongoing subject of research. Praying mantises start their life in an ootheca egg mass, which is usually laid in the fall and hatches in the spring or early summer. The natural lifespan of a praying mantis in the wild is about 10-12 months, but some mantids kept in captivity have been sustained for up to 14 months.
Conservation Status: While most North American mantids are not considered endangered species, some species in other parts of the world are under threat due to habitat destruction. For example, the European Mantis (Mantis religiosa) is a non-native species from Europe and Northern Africa and is not listed as a special protected species in Connecticut, where it is the state insect.
These are the main concepts related to Praying Mantises. If you have any more specific questions or need further information, feel free to ask!