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The Praying Mantis - Insect Eater
For some reason, I've always been fascinated by these little insects, and encourage them into my garden. They're great at eating pest insects, and besides, they are interesting to watch.
I've seen both green and brown types in my garden, here in Melbourne, Australia. Sometimes, I'm lucky enough to find tiny green babies, just over a centimetre long, on some of my plants.
The photo is of baby mantises, probably just hatched.
About The Mantis
There are approximately 2,000 different types of these, ranging in size from over 15 centimetres down to 1 centimetre long. They are usually found in warmer climates around the world. Because they hold up their front legs in a praying position, they are known as "praying mantises".
The mantis has a triangle shaped head, with large eye. This insect can turn its head 180 degrees, and is the only insect that can do this. They can see movement up to 35 metres away. Their front legs can grip their prey with rows of spines. They have very powerful jaws, and also have wings.
Mantids have many predators, and depend on camouflage to survive. Many mantids have a hollow space in their bodies, which assist them in hearing the sounds of bats, on of their predators. Birds also enjoy eating mantids.
When I'm watering my garden, I'll often see mantis rushing out from under the leaves to get away from the spray.
What Do Praying Mantises Eat?
Mantids eat small insects, such as flies, moths, and beetles. A larger mantis can even eat small lizards, frogs or birds. Usually, the head is bitten off first.
Female mantises have even been known to bite the heads off the male during mating, but this is rare in the wild, and happens more with captive mantids.
These insects usually do not actively hunt, but sit quietly, camouflaged by leaves, waiting for prey to come by. If prey is in short supply in an area, they will fly to another in search of food.
Occasionally, when a mantis has been sitting on a pot plant, I've caught flies and fed them to the insect. Not good for the flies, but the praying mantis seemed to like it!
Do you like praying mantises?
Mantids will breed in Summer in temperate areas, or year round in the tropics. In some areas, they will mate during the wet season. Any number from 10 to 400 eggs will be laid in a sac called an ootheca.
In some species of mantid, the female will guard her eggs, which are usually attached to twigs or stems. The eggs may also be buried in the ground. The young will hatch between 3 to 26 weeks after laying, and this depends on humidity and temperature.
The baby mantids will emerge from little holes in the ootheca, and will be about the size of ants. They will shed their skins several times before they begin to look like adult mantises.
A mantis will live for only one season, and the smaller the species, the shorter the life span.
Praying Mantis Eating Prey
I guess some people may not like this image, but hey, a mantis has to eat something! They really help reduce pests in the garden, and I like to see them on my plants. They are great at reducing the aphid plague.
Aren't the colours of this insect beautiful? It's actually a female, feeling threatened, so she's displaying to scare away the threat. In some species of mantis, the males are far more timid than the females.
After a search of the garden for a baby praying mantis, I was unable to find one to photo. However, I did find this grasshopper chewing on my potted bay tree, so here it is as an example of adult mantis food.
Praying Mantis In The Raspberries
Recently, while doing some gardening, I found this praying mantis in the raspberry canes. It looks quite well fed, and I've had a good crop of raspberries this year, so perhaps the mantis helped. :-) There was also an egg sac nearby, so in the Spring, hopefully, there will be lots of baby mantises to protect next year's crop.