On a mid summer morning, if you look carefully in the camouflage of the garden you may be lucky enough to find a praying mantis. They may be green or brown to disguise themselves. You will find them swaying in the breeze on the limb of a plant. This is actually one of their techniques that they use to capture their prey. They sit praying and waiting for something yummy to come their way. When an insect comes within striking distance the praying mantis sway with the branch until they get closer to the prey and then they snatch their prey at a quick 1/20 of a second. Mantis have very powerful forelegs that have spines on the inside of them. They use their forelegs to hold on tight to their prey as they only eat their victims alive.
Praying mantis eat caterpillars, crickets, flies, grasshoppers, mice, moths, snakes, spiders and other insects. The large praying mantis that are 6 inches in length may go for snakes or small birds for prey. The female may also eat the male after mating to get enough protein for her eggs.
The word “mantis” comes from the Greek word prophet. The oldest fossil of the praying mantis dates back 23 to 34 million years ago from Oligocene epoch. The mantis can guide a lost child home in French culture. While in Arab and turkish cultures the Mantis is supposed to be pointing towards Mecca, their religious center. Mantis was a character in African folklore that would dream up solutions to his problems. The Africans also thought that the mantis could bring the dead to life. While Americans thought that the praying mantis could blind men and kill horses. On the other hand if you live in China and you wet your bed you would eat roasted praying mantis eggs!
The praying mantis has three distinct regions to their body. The head, thorax and the abdomen. The legs and wings are attached to the thorax. The head can rotate almost completely around. The praying mantis has compound eyes. These eyes can turn 180 degrees which help them to see their prey in every direction without moving from their perch. The eyes also help the praying mantis see clearly for up to 50 feet away. The female is larger than the male. The praying mantis has a specially designed eardrum that can pick up a frequency of 25-60 kHz. This helps them dodge their natural enemy the bat. When the hear the ultrasonic sounds from the bats locating them as they are flying through the air at night they will quickly dodge them and fall to the ground, evading their enemy. Praying mantis fall victim to birds, spiders and parasitic wasps. There are about 20 species of praying mantis in the U.S. The average praying mantis lives for about 6 months but can live as long as a year. They are solitary creatures due to their cannibalistic nature. The egg sac is called an ootheca and can hatch out 100 to 400 eggs. the average size of an praying mantis is from 1/2 to 12 inches depending on species.
Encourage praying mantis in your garden today and fight off bugs naturally. They are a great way to get rid of the grasshoppers you are always asking me about! So if you see one in your garden just admire him from a distance and give him a drink of water. He will take care of your insect woes. They are fascinating to watch as well!