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Praying Mantises

Updated on February 3, 2016

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.

Hatchling mantis.
Hatchling mantis. | Source

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.

Adult mantis.
Adult mantis. | Source

What Do Praying Mantises Eat?

Mantis eating.
Mantis eating. | Source

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!

Mantis Poll

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Mantis Mating

Mantis egg sac.
Mantis egg sac. | Source

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.

Photo Credit

Praying Mantis Eating Prey

Mantis eating.
Mantis eating. | Source

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.

Beautiful Mantis

Defensive display.
Defensive display. | Source

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.

Mantis food - a grasshopper.
Mantis food - a grasshopper. | Source

Mantis Food

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

Brown mantis.
Brown mantis. | Source

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.

Mantis Gallery

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Close up of Mantis face. Isn't this a great shot of a mantis?Giant Malaysian Shield Mantis, Rhombodera BasalisPink Orchid or Flower Mantis.
Close up of Mantis face.
Close up of Mantis face. | Source
Isn't this a great shot of a mantis?
Isn't this a great shot of a mantis?
Giant Malaysian Shield Mantis, Rhombodera Basalis
Giant Malaysian Shield Mantis, Rhombodera Basalis
Pink Orchid or Flower Mantis.
Pink Orchid or Flower Mantis. | Source

Your Praying Mantis Comments

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    • Snakesmum profile image
      Author

      Jean DAndrea 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Hopefully, I'll find some in my garden this Spring. Love watching these little insects. Enjoyed your article too. Thanks for visiting.

    • Snakesmum profile image
      Author

      Jean DAndrea 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Yes, they are very useful in the garden, eating aphids and other pests. Thanks for visiting.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 2 years ago from Northern California, USA

      The first time I saw a Praying Mantis on a leaf in our garden, I almost jumped out of my skin. It looked unusually bright green and for some reason it scared me. My husband explained that I shouldn't be afraid of them because they serve a great purpose. I enjoyed learning more about Praying Mantises here in your hub.

    • profile image

      TanoCalvenoa 3 years ago

      I don't see them often, but love when I do. I've seen big green ones more than 3 inches long on occasion here in Southern California.

    • Hairdresser007 profile image

      James Jordan 3 years ago from Burbank, CA

      I like getting the egg sacks and putting them in the yard. I always end up finding a few of them around later in the year. They are sooo cool!

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 3 years ago

      I think these are one of the coolest insects in all of Nature - sure wish we had them around here!

    • Squirt2Squidoo profile image

      Squirt2Squidoo 3 years ago

      I enjoy watching a Praying Mantis in action. They are so quick its crazy. Nice lens!!

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 4 years ago

      Yes, I've liked them since childhood when my mom taught us that they were good for the garden. She said they eat other really pesky bugs, but this is the first time for some fabulous closeup shots.

    • desilegend profile image

      desilegend 4 years ago

      They are very unusual creatures.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I've always thought that these insects look so cool. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I love these creatures! they scare the hell out of me! but I love them anyway!, so i decided to design a T-shirt, please check it out! Please see Jmcks ! if u do a search am sure you'll find me! I also design many other Tees you may find interesting! Anyway Great Lens and really dig the pictures.

    • Nadooa profile image

      Nadooa 4 years ago

      They are fascinating but still scare the heck out of me... was on my balcony putting out some things in the sun and one just came on my face scratching my cheek as in saying hello there buddy :P I screamed like little girl :P and it jumped/flew away and continued it's rein of terror else where lol

    • Jogalog profile image

      Jogalog 4 years ago

      I think they are fascinating insects and I think their name makes them sound even more interesting.

    • Snakesmum profile image
      Author

      Jean DAndrea 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @Jogalog: They are great. Have been trying to get a picture of one on a plant on my patio, but can't get a clear shot. Thanks for visiting

    • Snakesmum profile image
      Author

      Jean DAndrea 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      @Countryluthier: Thankyou for your visit. I really like these little insects in my garden, as they are true organic pest controllers.

    • Countryluthier profile image

      E L Seaton 4 years ago from Virginia

      I think they are wonderful contributors and worth their weight in gold. I always felt fortunate in the past when I found one on or near my flowering plants.