Praying Mantis – 9 Fascinating Praying Mantis Facts (2018)

Fascinating Praying Mantis Facts 

Children are fascinated by insects, every one of us would have grown watching them in our gardens or porches that wander in all directions. There are dozens of books on insects as pets. Not everyone are fond of having roaches as pet insects, apparently mantids is a real exception. A praying mantis is a fun and pleasant pet. It has the best credit of most intuitive insect among the insect family.

Praying mantis are stunning insects with an enormous appetite, and an amusement to have in our backyards. People often refer to any mantids (plural form of praying mantis) as a praying mantis, however, these insects belong to a smaller group in mantid. Praying mantis are beneficial insects that have remained the topic of interest due to its curious posture and predatory behavior.

All mantids belong to the insect family Mantodea. The word mantodea has come from the Greek word mantis which has a holy meaning prophet and eidos meaning type. These insects get their name because of their long front legs that often remind people of praying posture. Their forelegs are clasped together as if they are in prayer.

They are over 2400 species in about 430 genera in 15 different families. People often consider this creepy insect as a serene and soulful insect. Surprisingly, these are not creepy insects but rather predators which love to taste live flesh.  This means it lives off other animals, not plants. The total appearance of the insect makes them look like strange and terrific (seldom scary too). There is a countless number of fascinating facts about praying mantis.

1. Discover the amazing animal that lives on our planet

Praying mantis

Praying mantis is generally found in many different habitats. The habitat range is widely distributed throughout the tropical, sub-tropical and warm territories across the globe. Most praying mantis live in the tropics, yet you can also see many of their habitats in grasslands, prairies, and deserts.

When winter descends, however, life gets harder for all the insects.  Apparently praying mantids do not hibernate during winters. The adult females cannot survive the cold weather due to chilly weather and lack of food and water. Therefore the female mantis puts the egg case on the branch of the tree or bush, so the eggs push off the cold weather seasons in their egg case. Once the winter is over and spring sets in, the eggs hatch from the case. They require specific conditions to thrive, however when it is properly maintained, their lifetime can even stretch over a year.

Some people even love to have praying mantis as pets. These pets since bred indoors have no difficulties surviving all seasons in the year.  Yet overwintering is a complex process especially when your pet mantis lays eggs in the winter season. However, an astonishing fact about praying mantis is, they produce a lot of glycerol and sugar in their blood to prevent them from solidifying and to embrace the cold weather. In European countries, praying mantis are commonly found in Europe and Spain. Apparently, in the United States, they are found in every part of the country.

2. Praying mantis found in the United States is strange

Chinese mantis

There are many species of praying mantis found in many parts of United States. They are both native and introduced. One of the introduced species in the United States is the Chinese mantis. Chinese mantis is long slender mantis which is typically longer than other praying mantis and holds the credit for the largest species of praying mantis. This Chinese mantis is responsible for most of the big egg masses.

Generally, during the spring season, they hatch from the eggs which looks like a Styrofoam. They are tiny versions of the creatures looking very cute. The lifecycle from baby to the adult will take place throughout summer.  During this phase, it grows about two to three inches long.

There are a total of 3 North American Mantises in the insect section. It is believed that these species were discovered in the United States in 1899. However the origin was Europe, apparently, through trading and transport, it migrated to the United States. Some of the species commonly seen in North America are

  • Carolina Mantis– This is the common praying mantis found in almost all the states in the United States of America mostly native to North and Central America. It comes in a variety of colors (mainly green or even brownish) and patterns. This is a terrestrial organism found mainly in New Jersey and down south to Florida. One of the important aspects about Carolina mantis is, they have the capability to rotate their head to 180 degrees.

In addition, they have pretty good eyesight that helps them to be a better predator. This fearsome predator is capable of killing prey 3 times its size. Their main sources of food are butterflies, moths, wasps, bees, and caterpillars. These mantids are quite long so it should be enclosed in a container which is at least 3 times tall as its size. They are generally found in woodlands and meadows.

  • Chinese Mantis– Many people prefer to have Chinese mantis as their pets to look after when compared to other species. They have a long slender body and usually appears in green and brown color. The life cycle is very less, they live only from spring to fall, however, when protected well and taken good care, their lifetime can extend up to 1 year period. It also varies depending on the species, the smaller species have a lifespan of 4 to 8 weeks whereas the larger variety of this species lives for about 6 months.

Generally Chinese mantis have mammoth appetites, they eat small insects like mosquitoes, caterpillars, and soft-bodied insects when they are younger. However adult mantis does not fill up their hunger with smaller insects rather they look for bigger preys like grasshoppers, cricket, beetles and other pest insects. For instance, they have been recognized as feeding on small reptiles, amphibians (frogs, toads, salamanders, newts and blindworms) and even small cadres of hummingbirds.  They are often referred to as invasive insects since it eats native birds.

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At the same time, they protect themselves against the predators with their camouflage property and sneak up on prey. It easily blends into the environment of leaves, sticks, and flowers.

  • Praying Mantis– Praying mantis are carnivorous insects and they are many fascination facts which are discussed detailed in this blog. One of the most fascinating facts is, this is the only insect which can rotate its head 360 degrees. They have a neck that allows the head to rotate while it is waiting for its prey. They scan the surroundings thoroughly and grasp the insects wander by. They have a rare, flexible body. This feature enables their triangular heads to rotate freely.

3. Praying mantis have great vision

Praying Mantis

New developments in the study of this ambush predator reveal that praying mantis vision shows 3 D capabilities (stereoscopic vision).  Praying mantis is the only invertebrate to have 3-D vision. This seems more complex than actually, they were expecting. Basically, birds and insects don’t have this capability, apparently praying mantis have such a fascinating feature of having such type of vision.

Stereoscopic vision refers to the human ability to view with both the eyes in similar, however in a slightly different way. When you have a stereoscopic vision, you can see the objects in three spatial dimensions. This is possible when two eyes are intact that is aligned and move synchronously. The major advantage of this type of vision is, you can determine the exact depth (the distance of the object). Only humans, owls and apes have this type of vision.

The aspect of binocular vision provides the insects with extensive reaching and grasping. Generally, insects and animals hunt their preys only when it is moving, however praying mantis can detect its prey once it is in a striking distance, irrespective whether it is moving or not.  Even human have difficulties and find it challenging and they don’t have perfection in all instances. Apparently praying mantis are real professionals in hunting their preys and use this vision in a more precise manner. Researchers have designed miniature glasses that have similar vision like mantids and use for visual processing in robots.

4. Praying mantis are agile and amazing jumpers

Praying Mantis are Jumpers

A less known aspect of praying mantis is their agility. They are good lenders, their slow motion video capture of the leaping mantises reveals how they twist their bodies and limbs to catch their targets. Their leaps are perfect and accurate and often referred as acrobat jump. They are pretty amazing jumpers.

They have the shrewd ability to jump at lightning speed and have an amazing landing capability and always land on the target. You need high-speed cameras to capture their motions. There are also few videos which you can watch online. One such video is, the praying mantis snatching a grasshopper in the mid-air.  The unique ability to leap to control its spin in mid-air and precisely landing on the target is a no match to any other invertebrate.

Praying mantises are extremely aggressive and have the capacity to defend itself against predators and disruptive prey. Although praying mantis is considered to be a deaf insect, yet it possesses a sensitive and focused acoustic sense. They have an only single ear, however, possess sensitive ultrasonic hearing that is positioned in the ventral midline of the body. It can detect the sound emitted by bats through echolation and sense its preys. However, mantis is crazy little creatures. Not all have developed the power of hearing, however, some have.

5. Praying mantis has 5 eyes

Praying Mantis has 5 eyes

A praying mantis has 5 eyes which are truly fascinating.  They have compound eyes (commonly found in arthropods such as insects and crustaceans) which are visible and the ones you generally notice. The other three eyes are located in the middle of the head.

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The black portion in the mantid eye is essentially the sections of the compound eye. With the help of the large eyes, they can snack on the garden pests. The complex pattern of the insect’s compound eyes are real marvels to observe, and has provided an intense, movement-oriented vision for these tiny creatures for loads of era! The large compound eyes are made of a specialized pattern called ommatidia (which allows the rays of light to bend before entering) to have a better vision of their targets. This is the main course of the reason why insects can see their preys even behind their heads.

6. Praying mantis eat their mates, world’s weirdest behavior

Mantis Eat Mantis

The female praying mantis is often painted as an evil seductress because it lures the male after mating. Female praying mantises consume the heads of their mates after sexual cannibalism. They have their habit of killing and eating their male partners during sex, this is a surprising fact in the life history of praying mantis.

Apparently, the male sacrifices its life for the reproduction cycle to develop and the nourishment of the offspring. There are also reports that reveal that female that kills the male partners produces more eggs than those that don’t kill their mates. In a nutshell, this increases the potential of fertility. This is a quite deadly situation for the male mantis, yet it has become a pattern of their lifecycle. Although there is a number of debates why this takes place, many biologists suggest that it may be due to hunger since praying mantis has a voracious appetite.

This weirdest behavior was noticed first during a laboratory study about praying mantis. Scientists were astonished and surprised by this characteristic of praying mantis. During the observation, some species of mantids devour their partner after sex, whereas few of other species cut their legs or heads even before copulation.

Sexual cannibalism necessarily abolishes the chances of future mating for the male mantids. In fact, in certain species of mantids, the male cannot ejaculate until it has been cannibalized.  It is a cold truth that the sole job of the male insect is to pass the genes for the growth of their offsprings.

It was also revealed that thinner mantis is generally hungrier and are more aggressive and are sure to kill their mates. So the male mantis generally prefers to mate only with female partners which are healthy and fatty besides less aggressive as a precautionary means. They are intuitive so they have the capability to judge their partners.

7. They are useful insects

Mantis insects

Many of the insects accomplish some positive effects on the human and the ecosystem to get rid of the decaying matter like plants and dead animals. Without insects, the environment could not function properly. They provide effective solutions for pollination. However, praying mantis is not a beneficial insect, unlike others. They do not consume pollen or nectar, so they have no role in pollination. They are scrappy creatures and attacks its prey like a deadly ambush predator.

Although they have no role in pollination or nectar secretion, yet they are beneficial insects to get rid of the cabbage worms and blinds worms in your backyard. Since praying mantis has the characteristic of enormous appetite they consume more insects on one go. They can consume up to 16 crickets per day. So if you are on the verge of controlling pests and insects, having praying mantis as your pet is rather a good choice.

8. Praying mantis has close similarities as cockroaches

Praying Mantis And Cockroaches

Praying mantis are unlikely cousins to roaches and have very close similarities. Both belong to the insect family having 3 pairs of legs and three segmented bodies. Although color and characteristics are considered to be the basic similarity yet it has other similarities to roaches which makes them quite fascinating. Entomologists believe that cockroaches are older ancestors to praying mantis and mantids are new generation species and hence classify them in super order (Dictyoptera). Dictyoptera is an insect superorder that includes two unlikely cousins the roaches and the mantis.

Researches reveal that prehistoric cockroaches were mantis because the ancient cockroaches were predators and nocturnal (consumes its prey during the night). It is believed that the modern mantis has inherited the characteristic of ambush predator from their ancestors. In addition, the current era mantids have similar slender legs like roaches which are used for careful pursuit.

9. Life stages of praying mantis

Life Stages of Praying Mantis
source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/226376318744463812/

The life cycle of praying mantis starts with a unique and weirdest method called sexual cannibalism. It has three stages

  • Egg stage
  • Nymph Stage
  • Adult Stage

The egg stage usually occurs at the end of the fall season or just before winter. A potential adult female mantis lays about 100 to 400 eggs after fertilization. She generally protects the eggs on a safe stem or a sturdy leave with a frothy liquid. This becomes a secure egg casing which protects the young ones surviving cold winters. Following the egg stage, life cycle follows the nymph and adult stage with simple metamorphosis and change in their appearance.

Although you might have never seen one, for sure you would have loved all the interesting facts of this little creature.

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