The praying mantis – an undeniably impressive insect. Carnivorous and camouflaged, the praying mantis gets its name for the way their front legs are bent in a “praying” motion. Most mantis species are colored green or brown so they can blend in with leaves and foliage which enables them to patiently stalk insects like flies and grasshoppers.
The fearsome predators are capable of killing prey 3 times its size. Praying mantises feed on insects, mice, small turtles and even snakes. Striking twice as fast as a blink of an eye, praying mantises will slowly devour the unfortunate prey slowly with its ultra sharp mandibles.
The praying mantis is widely viewed as a beneficial insect as they eat many different types of other insects that may be harmful to humans. Common praying mantis species in the United States, include the native Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis Carolina) and non-native Chinese mantis (Tenodera sinensis. To help further your knowledge about this unique type of insect, we have compiled some amazing praying mantis facts below.
1. A Gardener’s Best Friend
Some gardeners have used praying mantis to control other insects but other bugs like lady beetles have been found to be much more effective. The insect-eating machines practice their own form of home pest control with their triangular heads that turns 180 degrees, large eyes and serrated legs perfect for snacking on garden pests. However, the praying mantis does not know the difference between beneficial and non-beneficial insects so the predators could do more harm than good in some instances.
2. Young Cannibals
One of the most popular praying mantis facts is the penchant for cannibalism in many species. Females of some praying mantis species will actually eat the male when mating with a male. After the male performs a complex mating dance, the female will bite the head or legs off the male during the mating act. However, in the wild, it is said that this praying mantis “sexual cannibalism” occurs less that 30% of the time. A Hollywood movie about a murderous bride in 1993 was even entitled, Praying Mantis, in honor of the unique mating ritual
3. Small Spectacles
Praying mantises have been receiving some recent media coverage for their collaboration with scientists from Newcastle University’s Institute of Neuroscience. The scientists have been fitting super-small 3D glasses on praying mantises. The research team says that the study may be able to help us program algorithms that will allow for 3D vision for robots. Mantises were selected as they are the only insect proven to have 3D vision like humans. Thus far, the scientists have said that the mantises have not been bothered by the glasses and have gone about their cricket-eating business as usual. Praying Mantises have a pair of compound eyes that are made up of thousands of miniature eyes in some cases.
4. Your Praying Pet
Praying mantises are actually quite popular pets. Insect enthusiasts can find complete praying mantis care starter kits online and you can also purchase praying mantis nymph eggs from some garden centers. Each species of mantis requires specific conditions to thrive, especially temperature and humidity. Make sure you research your species of praying mantis thoroughly. Most praying mantis care websites recommending feeding them an assortment of live insects. If properly cared for, praying mantises can live as pets for over a year. While a praying mantis will bite if provoked, their bites are not venomous and are cause little harm to humans.
5. A Master of Disguise
One of the most fascinating aspects of praying mantises has to be the many ways the different species camouflage themselves from their preys. Species that live on the ground floor tend to be spotted brown while species that live in trees are most often green and leaf-like. As this BuzzFeed gallery displays, the praying mantis, although extremely deadly, can be stunningly beautiful. The flower mantis for example mimics different species of flowers.
For more insight into unique insects, visit our pest guides.
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