Status: Not at risk.
Size: 2/5 inch to 10 inches.
Offspring: 10 to 300 eggs.
· 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 (Dictyoptesa) as cockroaches.
Praying mantises got their name from the way they sit, with their front legs folded as if in prayer when at rest or searching for food. They are carnivorous, with voracious appetites and prey on many types of insect pests. Their eyes are extremely proficient and can spot movement up to 60 feet away. If caught by a human, they don’t 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. Praying mantises 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. They eat a wide variety of prey, including grasshoppers, spiders, beetles, butterflies, other mantises and even mice or hummingbirds. Praying mantises are preyed on by birds, but their effective camouflage often means that they’re overlooked, as long as they’re still.
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 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.
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 or so in length. The eggs are encased in a sticky mass 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) who 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.