praying mantis

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"The praying mantis is arguably creepy but useful"

"Mantis" is a term of art. All praying mantises, or praying mantises, belong to the order Mantis, which has 2,400 species. Some of these are not considered praying mantises, although all have raptorial forelimbs for catching prey. The European mantis, Mantis religiosa, is considered the standard mantis, especially in Europe, but not every insect in the genus Mantis is considered "religious." In fact, the mantises Stagmomantis carolina and Tenodera aridifolia sinensis are also considered mantises and are the most common mantises in North America. Here is more information on praying mantises.

5 Unbelievable Praying Mantis Facts!

Here are five facts about praying mantises.

  • Some people keep them as pets.
  • Praying mantises can change color, but the color change appears to be regulated by temperature. Brown praying mantises exposed to warm sunlight will turn green.
  • The Carolina mantis , Stagmomantis carolina, is the state insect of South Carolina.
  • Praying mantises don't like to move around very much, they wait for their prey to come to their door. Some plants spend their entire life cycle on a single plant.
  • Females produce an ovum, a shell that protects the eggs from the foam that forms in their bodies. When it hardens, it looks and feels like Styrofoam.
Mantis One


scientific name

Praying mantises belong to the order Mantis . The name mantis comes from the Greek word meaning "prophet," and religiosa refers to the insect's prayer-like expression when its forelimbs are raised. The carolina in Stagmomantis carolina indicates that the insect was found in the Carolinas. For Tenodera aridifolia sinensis , tenodera means "slender neck" in Greek, and aridifolia means "dried leaf" in Latin. Sinensis refers to insects from China. T. aridifolia sinensis is also one of the largest praying mantises.

Evolution and Origin

praying mantis bite
Mantises date back to the Jurassic and Crustaceous times.

©Galuh M/

Praying mantises are estimated to have originated in the early Jurassic period about 201 million years ago. The current mantis likely originated in the early Crustaceous period, about 145 million years ago, on what was then the supercontinent Gondwana. Modern mantises diverged significantly when South America separated from Africa. Early praying mantis fossils of Santamantis axelrodi , an extinct genus of praying mantises, represent one of the most primitive lineages of this insect.

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A member of the Mantis family, there are more than 2,400 taxonomic species and 15 different subfamilies of mantises. There are 21 species of praying mantis in the genus Stagmomantis , 16 species in the genus Tenodera , and 9 species in the genus Mantis . Here are some species of mantids :

  1. praying mantis
  2. mantid
  3. praying mantis


Creobroter gemmatus, a praying mantis, sits with outstretched wings.
Creobroter gemmatus, a species of praying mantis, sits with outstretched wings.

© Semilir Banyu/

Praying Mantis is unmistakable. It has a long body and a triangular head that can move 180 degrees. It also has long, stiff antennae that can vary in color from green to brown. Its compound eyes are very large. Like most insects, it has two pairs of wings and six legs, although the first pair has evolved into folded "arms" that can grab prey. Spines on the arms hold the prey in place while the praying mantis eats it. Males are smaller and slender than females and sometimes fly at night.

The European mantis is unique in that it has an ear on its abdomen between the last pair of legs. Unlike other insects, it is a real ear, not an organ that can receive sound waves.


Two praying mantises are fighting on a rose branch.
Although ferocious as a hunter, the praying mantis is a small, non-venomous creature.

©Stefan Csontos/

Like all praying mantises, the praying mantis is a very efficient predator by nature. It finds prey by sight and smell. It uses a "sit and wait" hunting method, where it remains on plants for a long time before something to grab appears. When prey is within reach, it swoops down and grabs it in its arms. Spines on the arms ensure the insect has a firm grip. It does not use a benevolent bite, nor does it wait until its prey is dead to start eating. Praying mantises are even able to impale a bug with a spear in flight. Women are notorious for engaging in sexual cannibalism from time to time.

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Praying mantises fly around not to hunt, but to move more quickly from one habitat to another. Females can be so heavy that they cannot fly at all. Praying mantises live solitary and only come together for mating.

Despite its ferocity as a hunter, the praying mantis is a small, non-venomous animal. When confronted by its own predator, it raises and spreads its wings, which often have eye-spots to scare off attackers.


The habitat of these insects has a lot of flowering plants and therefore a lot of prey. They are not found in regions with long, cold winters.


Mantis, Mantis religiosa, eating a grasshopper.
Praying mantis, Mantis religiosa, eating a grasshopper.


Praying mantises are generalists, which means they will eat anything they can handle. This includes other insects, such as its distant relative, the cockroach. Ants are one of the few insects that praying mantises chase, but they usually wait for their prey to come to their door. China's largest praying mantis , T. aridifolia sinensis, can actually prey on hummingbirds.

Predators and Threats

Giant African Praying Mantis or Jungle Mantis sitting on a branch.
The giant African praying mantis is a hardy insect with few diseases or parasites.

©Karel Bartik/

Any insect-eating animals in the area will prey on praying mantises. This includes spiders, snakes, lizards, primates, birds, frogs, toads, rodents, bats, other small mammals, and even killer bees. The praying mantis itself is a hardy creature with few diseases or parasites. It feeds on pests and is therefore prized by gardeners. Of course, it also eats beneficial insects, but its role as a pest control agent makes up for that.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

A praying mantis nymph hatching from an egg sac.
A praying mantis nymph hatching from an egg sac.


Reports of female praying mantises killing and eating their mates have been exaggerated, although it does happen. Why doesn't she eat him? Laying eggs requires a lot of energy, and he is the biggest prey, easy to catch. With this in mind, male praying mantises approach females very carefully during mating season. It can take hours of stop and go for him to get close enough to jump on her back, use his "arms" to hold her still and mate with her. Hours later, when it was over, he let go and fell to the ground to get away from her before she could turn around and kill him. Mating usually occurs in late summer or early fall.

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Praying mantis eggs overwinter and do not hatch until spring, but until then, the female mantis creates an egg sac to protect her eggs. It's a capsule made of foam her body produces, much like attic insulation. She lays 100 to 600 eggs in the capsule, which she then places in a warm, sunny place but still moist enough to keep it from drying out. If she manages to kill and eat her mate, she will lay more eggs and eggshells.

After overwintering, the larvae hatch. At first, they look like tiny maggots, but soon after they are born they molt and become similar to their parents, albeit much smaller. Praying mantis pups molt six or more times before becoming fully grown, with about two weeks between molts. Females may have more moults because they are larger.

Praying mantises live about nine months to a year, especially in warmer climates. They live longer in captivity.


Praying mantises are common and plentiful insects all over the world. They have no special status on the IUCN Red List or other lists.

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Praying mantises are carnivores and will eat any animal they can handle. They will even eat each other.

They live in warm and temperate regions where prey is plentiful.

They eat other insects, including grasshoppers, bees, flies, cockroaches and moths, spiders, and even small vertebrates.

The life cycle of a praying mantis lasts about a year in the wild, but most don't live that long due to predation or the onset of winter.

They will bite if they get angry and pinch with their forelimbs, but they generally live peacefully around humans.

Praying mantises are very good at repelling pests.

The praying mantis would win the battle with the hummingbird. While it might seem completely counterintuitive to have bugs capable of killing birds, the truth is that hummingbirds are not well suited to kill other creatures.

An adult praying mantis will win a fight against an adult black widow.