The praying mantis is an insect that has remained the subject of curiosity for ages because of its strange posture and predatory behaviour.
There are about 1,800 species of praying mantids around the world.
The praying mantis is found in many differing habitats. They are generally located in the warmer regions, particularly tropical and subtropical latitudes. Most species live in the tropical rainforest, although others can be found in deserts, grasslands and meadowlands.
Although different species of praying mantis have varied life spans, they generally only live up to one year. Of this year, only six months are spent as an adult.
Praying mantis are from 2.5 to 15 centimeters (1 to 6 inches) long, depending on the species.
They have six legs, two antennae and triangular heads with bulging eyes supported on flexible necks.
The most eye-catching feature of the praying mantis are its front legs that make the insect look like it is
praying. The insect uses its grasping front legs to capture and hold its prey.
Most adult praying mantises have wings (some species do not). Females usually cannot fly with their wings, but males can.
Praying mantises have many different looks, including some that feature elaborate camouflage for protection.
Some have amazing body shapes that make them look like leaves, branches or flowers.
Green is the most common color for a praying mantis. However, it can come in a range of brownish tones and colors in order to camouflage itself in its environment.
Flower mantises are those species of praying mantis that mimic flowers. Their coloration is an example of aggressive mimicry, a form of camouflage in which a predator’s colors and patterns lure prey. For example, orchid mantis (Hymenopus coronatus) is characterized by brilliant coloring and a structure finely adapted for camouflage, mimicking parts of the orchid flower.
Praying mantises have as many senses as we do; sight, smell, taste, feeling and hearing. However, they mostly depend on sight. Their sense of sight is amazing compared to the abilities of other insects.
A praying mantis has 5 eyes! A mantis has to big compound eyes, the ones you will easily notice. But they also have three smaller eyes located on the middle of their head. Those eyes are used for detecting light while the big eyes are for seeing movement and having depth vision. Many other insect species have the same five-eye configuration.
They are one of the only kind of insect that has stereo-vision; it can look with two eyes at the same spot making it possible to judge distances very accurately.
Their sense of hearing is weak, but very special in the insect world. Almost all insects cannot hear as we do, they can only sense vibrations. But praying mantises actually have one ear, in the middle of their abdomen, that can sense the high-pitched tones of a bat!
They can turn their heads 180 degrees—an entire half circle. All other insects cannot turn their heads, their neck is too rigid to allow it.
As their hunting relies heavily on vision, mantises are primarily diurnal. Many species, however, fly at
night, and then may be attracted to artificial lights.
The praying mantis is a predator with a carnivorous diet. They tend to ambush and attack other insects that they can grab with their front legs. Once they hook their legs in, it is nearly impossible for prey to escape. Certain species may also prey on spiders, small birds, lizards, mice and other small animals.
The praying mantis will also eat others of their own kind. The most famous example of this is the notorious mating behavior of the adult female, who sometimes eats her mate just after—or even during—mating. Yet this behavior seems not to deter males from reproduction.
The mating season in temperate climates typically takes place in autumn, while in tropical areas, mating can occur at any time of the year. Following sexual mating, females lays between 10 and 400 eggs, depending on the species. Eggs are typically deposited in a froth mass-produced by glands in the abdomen. This froth hardens, creating a protective capsule, which together with the egg mass is called an ootheca.
The praying mantis mantises go through three life stages: egg, nymph, and adult. For smaller species, the eggs may hatch in 3–4 weeks as opposed to 4–6 weeks for larger species. The nymphs may be colored differently from the adult, and the early stages are often mimics of ants. A mantis nymph grows bigger as it molts its exoskeleton. Molting can happen five to 10 times before the adult stage is reached, depending on the species. After the final molt, most species have wings, though some species remain wingless, particularly in the female sex.
The primary predators of the praying mantis are frogs, bats, monkeys, larger birds, spiders and snakes.
The word mantis comes from the Greek mantikos, for soothsayer or prophet.
Mantises were considered to have supernatural powers by early civilizations, including Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt, and Assyria.
The praying mantis was considered a god in southern African Khoi and San tradition for its praying posture; the word for the mantis in Afrikaans is Hottentotsgot (“god of the Khoi”).
Two martial arts separately developed in China have movements and fighting strategies based on those of the praying mantis.
Many gardeners and farmers welcome praying mantises, because the insects they eat are often pests that hurt crops.
The closest relatives of mantises are the termites and cockroaches.
Praying mantises are among the insects most commonly kept as pets.
The Independent described the “giant Asian praying mantis” as “part stick insect with a touch of Buddhist monk“, and stated that they needed a vivarium around 30 cm (12 in) on each side.