The Praying Mantis belongs to a group of insects that are predatory, but are beneficial in the garden. Mantises prey in the wild on frogs, lizards, birds, snakes, fish and rodents. They get their name “Praying mantis”, because they look like they are praying. The term is often misspelled as “preying”mantis since they do prey on other creatures.
They can quickly attack their prey by jumping out very quickly to grasp their prey. The heads on some species can turn up to 300 degrees. This is necessary because Mantises need their vision to locate their food. They do not move their body but remain very still until their prey is within reach.
Today there are only a few native species of the praying mantis in the US. Some of them were originally brought over to help control insects on farms. Praying mantis are beneficial insects and were used for insect control long before there were pesticides. They are still widely used today as a Earth friendly means of insect control, mostly feeding on aphids and other small insects. Mantises will, however, eat anything that they can devour. Praying mantis eggs are sold and shipped to organic gardeners all over the country.
Mantids are non-venomous and pose no harm to humans. Many species mimic flowers, leaves, sticks and even ants, they are the world’s best camouflaged creatures.
When mantises are threatened they stand up tall, spread their forelegs and then spread out their wings in defense. If still threatened they will attack.
Mantises are like other stick insects, in that, they have a natural habit of rocking side to side almost in a steady rhythm.
LIFE CYCLE: OOTH (Eggcase) produces from 20 to 400 nymphs
NYMPH (BABY MANTIS) 6 TO 8 MOLTS TO ADULT
LIFE SPAN: UP TO 1 YEAR
SPECIES: APPROXIMATELY 2,200
TYPICAL DIET: Flies, crickets, roaches, other insects as well as small mammals
Common US species:
Chinese mantis (Tenodera Aridifolia Sinensis)
Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis carolina)
European mantis (Stagmomantis floridies)
Stick Mantis (Brunneria borealis)
Insects are invertebrates, which means they have no skeleton. They use their outer skin for body structure and molt when they grow larger. This means they shed their skin from 6 to 8 times before they reach adulthood.
All but a few mantid species have wings at the adult stage. Females hardly ever fly but the males, however, are good fliers.