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The Alien Insect

Updated on July 19, 2015

Origins

For centuries, the praying mantis has lived among us. They are mysterious, beautiful, and deadly (deadly to other insects). Some cultures have given them the nickname, the “Alien Insect”. The praying mantis is an insect that has been around for a longtime and is heavily respected in many countries especially Southeast Asia. A lot of people don’t realize that the mantis is actually related to the cockroach family, but unlike cockroaches, mantises do not carry diseases and they constantly clean themselves. Plus, they are not pests that eat your plants. They are the insect that protects your garden from other insects they those insects are beneficial or not. The mantis is also part of the order of the Mantodea. Praying Mantises are named for their prayer-like stance. Mantis is a name that derived from the Greek word mantis for fortune teller or prophet. The world’s largest praying mantis was found in Southern China in 1929 at about 18 centimeters long. It is still the record today. Imagine the length of a human forearm; well this record size mantis is almost as long. The body of the praying mantis is unique. It has a three segmented body with a thorax, head, and abdomen. The abdomen is long which helps the mantis if they have wings as an adult. Females tend to be the larger of the two. The praying mantis’s forelegs are very powerful and can be used to crush its prey. Their mouth has several tough cutting components that rip through its prey’s exteriors.

With their large eyes on their triangular shaped alien like head, have a large field of vision. It’s like the praying mantis has its very own built in binoculars. They can also turn their head 180 degrees. Instead of sensing smell like other living creatures, they use their antennae’s to capture smell. The prayer stance is probably the most unique feature of the praying mantis. This stance has not only made the mantis a unique creature, but the spirituality that is involved with the mantis is breath taking. I will explain more later in this article about the spirituality and the martial arts.

Predators

Bats, birds, and spiders have been known to eat adult mantises. Fish and other aquatic insects will eat the larvae. Praying mantises fly at night and like other insects can be attracted to artificial light. At the same time bats feed and therefore mantises can find themselves in a dangerous situation where they are the prey. Bat use ultrasonic sound waves to locate their prey. Bats are the praying mantises nemeses when it comes to enemies.

Habitat

Praying mantises can blend in with the plants they live on by changing their colors. The color change not only protects them from other predators, but it helps them catch their prey. Mantises are usually found on plants that attract other insects. Other than the plants that grow in the woods or in a garden, they can also live in grass.

Sexual Behaviors

Another praying mantis feature that is unique which is found amongst spiders would be the mating. Adult female praying mantises generally eat the male after of during mating. This is known as post-sexual cannibalism. This behavior is part of an ongoing subject of research and is legendary. The devouring of the male helps the female fertilizes the eggs. However, there have been times where the female did not cannibalize the male and let the male live, giving the male a change to mate with another female which in turn creates more praying mantis’s.

Food

They are extremely predacious and consume a diversity of insects. Some of the insects they eat may be poisonous to other insects and animals. One insect that is hard to eat are ladybugs. The reason being is because they have a foul odor which deters some predators from eating them and their bright colors also help as a deterrent. Red and orange are warning colors in nature that indicate to another animal or insect that the potential they might not be a good choice to eat. Praying mantises on the other hand are very smart and have stripped the wings from the ladybugs. The ladybugs wings are what carry the odor. Once the wings have been stripped from the ladybug, then it’s time to chow down. I have seen mantises first hand do this and it’s a sight that no one will ever forget. Praying mantises lie in wait with their front legs in an upraised position. They will watch and stalk their prey which includes their own species.

Praying Mantis slays a Mouse

Positivity and Martial Arts

Praying mantises are predators that are very active and consume other insects. They have been used as an insecticide substitute, a positive insecticide without any of the negative effects. By introducing mantises in the garden, you can protect your garden. Praying mantises do not eat plants and are strictly carnivores. Praying mantises are highly respected in parts of Asia including China, Japan, and Southeast Asia.

A lot of the ancient martial arts, mostly Chinese martial arts have used the praying mantises stance and techniques for arts and self-defense including war. Chinese Kung-Fu uses many of the animal styles and one of them is the praying mantis. The style is still practiced today and has been picked up by other styles which originated from other countries. In the ancient times, a martial arts style called Kalaripayat which originated from India traveled across Asia and Europe. It helped Chinese warriors better their defensive techniques and from there Kung-Fu was born. From Kung-Fu came other styles which originated in other Asian countries and animal styles such as the praying mantis style was adopted by other cultures, but the style may have been a bit different from the Chinese style. Karate, Muay Thai, Taekwondo, and more have their own version of the praying mantis style of techniques. The movement and speed of these great insects are inspired by legends, myths, superstitions, and stories. The praying mantis style was founded in Southern China and is still practiced there today. Praying mantises are also linked to a lot of spiritual beliefs in Asia. There are praying mantises farms and meditation centers or temples that will raise the mantises and people can meditate with them.

Giant Rainforest Mantis vs. Spiny Leaf Insect

Pets

Praying mantises make great pets. Because of their unique behavior, appearance, and engaging hunting skills, they make a great and exotic pet, their pet popularity even rivals spiders and scorpions and they are a much safer pet to keep in your house. They can be kept in a medium to large insect container or fish tank. Just remember, when feeding the praying mantis, carful feeding must be used because if you over feed a mantis and it’s easy to because they have an unstable appetite, their stomachs have been known to burst which will kill the mantis.

My Experiences with the Praying Mantis

I have been using praying mantises to protect my family’s gardens. It has not been as successful as I thought it would because I put the store bought eggs in the garden and a lot of them did not hatch. The ones I kept in the house did hatch and they have been very successful, but the majority of them ate each other. The truth is they will protect your gardens, but not every leaf. They are safer then insecticides which poison your plants. I have held praying mantises in one hand and another insect in the other hand, it was amazing watching the mantis snatch the insect from my other hand and eat it.

Praying mantises are great for the environment in many ways. They eat pretty much every type of insect, they will protect most of your garden, and they are amazing to watch and learn from. There are not many praying mantises here in the United States and it is important to raise them and put them back in the wild where they can be useful.

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    • profile image

      Snakesmum 

      3 years ago

      Love finding these in my garden. I think they're cute. Have learned more about mantids from your hub : Thanks.

    • profile image

      Billy 

      3 years ago

      I use to have them in my garden where I use to live. I enjoyed holding them and watching their alien like head turn to face me. Some of my friends found them a little creepy but I thought it was cool. The videos on here are awesome.

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