Praying Mantis

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.

Diet

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.

History

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!

Morphology

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!

4 Responses

  1. lately, in the past month or so i have become very interested in praying mantis. i have found 5 or six since. but for about 2 weeks, i didn’t find any at all. then one day, i saw a brown one walking around in the grass. i picked it up and studied it for a while, looking at its markings. i was very excited about that. but sadly i did not find anymore for the next week or so, until one decided to crawl on my father. i was excited so i went to find more. i thought to myself, if i was a praying mantis, where would i hide? i looked around in a spot i thought would be good, and sure enough, i found a adult brown mantis at least 4 inches long! then, the next day, i searched for it with no luck. but then, out of the corner of my eye, i saw a smaller brown one. i picked it up and looked at it, and realized it was the same one i had found the previous week! i then played with it and handled it for the rest of the week, until today, it didn’t show. i was sad about that, and wished it would return. ( i am sure it will tomorrow.) then, later on in the day i went in the back to play lacrosse, and i found a green one on the side of my pool! i picked it up and put it in a ten gallon tank and filled the tank with grass and leaves. i went to go find a bug for it to eat, but had no luck. when i went back to the tank, there was another one crawling on the outside! this one was about 2 and a half to three inches. i put that in the tank as well. i then had a thought they might attack each other so released them both in separate locations that i thought they might decide to hang around in. i really love them, and want to get a foreign species that i can keep as a pet. where could i find one of these? i heard if the mantis is not native, it is legal to keep it.

  2. Hey i know there are legal to keep in Ohio but where you live i dont know about it but you can find them anywhere really i found my big female that is about to lay eggs in the middle of the road. She almost got hit by a car so i just picked her up and took her home and now she is in a good enviroment and is ready when ever she lays eggs. Also how many are you looking to keep.

  3. Just wondering though does anyone know what size of a cricket they eat or how many because i feed it a grasshopper and she did not eat is so i dont know what to do and i dont want her to die before she lays her eggs

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