Praying Mantis

     Mantodea - most commonly known as the Praying Mantis, order mantodea is a
group of about 1800 carnivorous insects which prodominatley live in tropical
regions of the earth. Though certain species can be found in locations with
moderate climate. With an extremely striking appearence, mantids almost have
human like qualities with the ability to hold an erect stance, and arms that
face forward. A very efficient killer, mantids were created for hunting and
killing prey. Order Mantodea is in the subclass Pterygota. As with all
classifications there can be debates on where certain orders or species belong.

Historically there has been some confusion on whether Mantodea deserves there
own order. Some experts have placed Mantodea in the dictyoptera order along with
cock roaches (Ramel 1996, Jaques 1981, Phoenix Zoo). Others say mantids belong
in Orthoptera, which consists of grasshoppers. Experts say this is due to their
large pro notum (Stokes 1983, Borror and White 1970). The emerging consensus
around the position of Mantodea believes Mantodea constitute their own
independent order of insects. Mantids can be characterized by their triangular
head, and filiform antennae. This head has the ability to turn 180 degrees. With
their prominate pair of compound eyes located on Peters 2 the sides of the head,
the mantis can almost see 360 degreeís around. However the sharpest vision is
located in the compound eyeís center, for the mantis to optimaly see objects
it must turn its head so that the eye is facing the object. These eyes are
extremely sensitive to light, changing from light green or tan in bright light,
to dark brown in the dark. The prothorax of the mantis is another aid in giving
them their distintive appearence. This prothorax has the ability to bend and
twist which aids in the mantids ability to see close to 360 degrees around. The
two long "raptorial" front legs are adapted to seize and hold prey. The coxa
connects the tibia which has sharp spines to firmly hold prey. The femur has
matching groves where the spine on the tibia fold into. This creates a "jack
knife" effect that allows the insect to assume itís distinctive praying
position. The other four legs of the mantis are designed for locomotion. These
legs can regenerate if broken, but only in the molting process. These limbs that
regenerate are always smaller than they were originally. A full grown adult that
no longer molts no longer possess the ability to regenerate limbs. The front"raptorial" limbs do not regenerate if broken. Because of their large bulky
bodies mantids are fairly weak flyers. They have four pairs of wings. The first
pair are leathery tegmina wings that lay over the inner pair. The Peters 3
mambrenous inner pair are folded under the first pair and are used for flight
and to startle enemies. The large segmented abdomen houses the digestive system
and reproductive organs. The male mantis has 8 segments, and the females are
born with 8 segments as well. But with each succesive molt in the female the
last two segments begin to overlap resulting with 6 segments left. Sixty percent
of mantid species possess an ultrasonic ear on the under side of the metathorax,
especially those that have wings. The mantid is an "auditory cyclops", which
means it only has one ear. The ear is 1mm long with cuticle like knobs at either
end and two ear drums buried inside. The ear is specially tuned to very high
ultrasonic freqeuncies of sound waves from 25 to 65 kilohertz. Apparently, the
ears primary purpose is designed to respond to the ultrasonic echo-location
signal used by hunting bats. The mantis primarily uses its ultrasonic ears while
in flight. When a mantis senses a batís ultrasonic echo at close range, it
curls itís abdomen upwards and thrusts its legs outward creating a drag and
resulting in a sudden aerial stall. This flight manuever of the mantis creates
an unpredictable flight pattern for the bat, and is very effective at avoiding
hungry bats. There are three ways to distinguish between female and male
mantodea. The male has 8 segments, while the female has Peters 4 The second is
size, the female is always bigger than the male. The third is behavior, the male
mantis is more prone to take flight in search of a mate, while the female often
remains stationary. Mantids are extremely predacious feeders, only eating live
prey, or prey that is moving, and hence appears alive. Varying on the species,
you can see what diet preferences are. Some species only eat "soft bodied
bugs", insects that can be easily devoured. While some species will eat
anything from small birds to reptiles. Mantids are diurnal, which means they eat
primarily during the day. An attacking mantid "undulates", and sways just
before a strike. Some experts believe this swaying action mimics the movement of
the surrounding folliage due to gusts of wind. Others believe this swaying aids
in the mantid visually focusing on the prey. Mantids hunt by the "sit and
wait" method or by the slow stalk method. The "sit and wait" can sometimes
take hours, waiting for an unsuspecting victim to come within an arms length.

The slow stalk method is pretty self explanitory. Mantids attack by"pinching", impaling prey between its spiked lower tibia and upper femur.

The mantids strike takes an amazing 30 to 50 one-thousanth of a second. The
strike is so fast it canít be proccessed by the human brain. Once the prey is
secured with its legs the mantid chews at the preys neck. If well fed, the
mantid will selectively choose to eat certain Peters 5 parts of its prey and
discard the rest. If any part of the prey is dropped while feeding the mantis
will not retrieve it. After feeding, they will often use their mouth to clean
the food particles from the spines of itís tibia, and then wipe their face
clean similar to cats. The cannibalistic instincts of mantids are probably what
give order mantodea a reputation for being such cold hearted killers. All stages
of growth partake in cannibalistic activities, from nymph to adult, whether
adult eats nymph or nymph eats nymph. After mating the female will often eat her
mate. Between 5-31% of males get devoured during the mating process. A female
mantis already heavy with eggs will excrete a chemical attractant to tempt a
willing male into mating. The horny and always willing male will almost always
get sucked in. The males sperm cells are stored in the spermatheca of the
female. The female can begin to lay her eggs as early as the day after
fertilization. As the eggs pass through her reproductive system, they are
fertilized by the stored sperm. After finding a raised location, like a branch
or stem, special appendages at the base of the abdomen (ventral valve maybe)
create a gelatinous egg material into the shape characteristic of the particular
species as it exits her ovipositor. The egg laying process takes 3 to 5 hours
long. By instinct the female twists her abdomen in a spiral motion to create
chambers within the ootheca. The egg case then hardens Peters 6 into a paper
mache like substance that is resistant to pests who would try and eat it. There
are small air pockets between each cell of the ootheca which aids in insulation
against cold winters. There can be anywhere from 30 to 300 eggs laid in a
sitting. Often times the female dies after her final birthing. The life-cycle of
the North American mantid species runs from spring to fall. When spring time
temperatures become favorable the mantid nymphs emerge from the ootheca. They
drop towards the ground on a thin strand of stringy material produced by a
special gland in their body. Mantid nymphs are hemimetabolous. Mantid nymphs
appear like small adults, but without fully-formed wings. Nymphs go through 6 to

7 molts before they reach adulthood. Emerging nymphs feed on whatever small
insects they can get their claws on, including their brothers and sisters. The
primary enemies to mantids are spiders, birds, snakes, mammals(especially bats),
and man. The mantis has four primary methods for defense. The mantids green and
brown exo-skeleton color help aid in camouflage. The mantids ability to stand
perfectly still for extremely long periods of time cause it to be over looked by
predators. When confronted by an enemy the mantis asumes the "startle
display", rearing itís fore legs up and spread apart, and rattling its
wings. The ultrasonic ear is also a form of defense for the mantis. Insect Pest

Management or IPM is a subject of research Peters 7 that is really starting to
take notice throughout the world. Itís becoming apparent that the over use of
chemical pesticides is ruining our Earths ecology. Finding alternative methods
of pest control besides the use of pesticides is imperative if we expect to keep
this planet in good condition. Numerous cases of IPM have been initiated and
have proved to work. The praying mantis plays an important role in natureís
insect pest control plan. The praying mantis is one of the few predators with
that are fast enough to catch mosquitos and flies while their in flight. Moth
populations are also controlled by mantids. There are three common species of
mantids found in North America. The European mantis (Mantis religiosa), the

Chinese mantis (Tenodera aridifolia sinesis), and the Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis
carolina). The European mantis is usually 2-3 inches in length, and has a
consistently bright green color. These are distinguished as the only of the
three species that bear a black-ringed spot beneath the fore coxae. The European
mantids are most often found east of The Mississippi River. It is said that the

European mantids were first introduced into North America in Rochester New York
in 1899 on a shipment of nursery plants. The Chinese mantis is the largest of
the three native to North America reaching lengths up to five inches. This
species is mostly light brown with a dull green trim around its wings. The

Chinese mantis can be found throughout the United States. Peters 8 The Chinese
mantis arrived in 1895 on nursery stock sent to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The

Carolina mantis is the smallest of the three never reaching a length greater
than 2 inches. This mantis has a dusky brown or gray color to blend in with the
pine forests and and sandhills of Southeastern part of the U.S. An interesting
feature of the Carolina mantis is that the wings which only extend 3/4 of the
way down the abdomen. There are many myths and legneds asscociated with mantids.

For thousands of years they have captured our imagination, and curiosity. The
word mantis comes from ancient greece and means "diviner" or "prohpet".

Many cultures have credited the mantid with a variety of magical qualities. In
the southern portion of the U.S. it is believed that if the brown saliva of a
mantis ever comes in contact with you, youíll go blind. This mystical saliva
also has the potential to kill a horse. In France it is believed that if a lost
child is ever in the woods and canít find his way home the praying stance of
the mantid will direct them toward safety. The Turks and Arabs believe the
mantid always prays toward Mecca. During the European Middle-ages it was thought
that the mantis was a great worshiper of god due to the great amounts of time
spent in prayer. In China it is believed that the roasted egg cases of mantids
will cure bed wetting in people. In Africa, if a mantid Peters 9 ever lands on
someone it will bring that person good luck. It is also believed that the mantis
possess the power to bring the dead back to life. Type in praying mantis on most
any search engines and youíll be able to find numerous amounts of info. But

80% of most of these praying mantis sites are all related to the praying mantis
style of kung-fu. To find any decsent info on the praying mantis, you must type
in the latin name. Many legends are told about the origins of praying mantis
kung-fu. There is no disputing the fact that Wang Lang invented Plum Blossom

Praying Mantis Boxing. The one legend that seems to be found at most web-sites
describing the history of Praying Mantis Kungfu is the one about Wang Langís
hiking trip through the Lao Shan mountains of China. After a recent devasting
loss in a kungfu fight Wang needed some time to himself. While resting on a log
he noticed two mantids fighting. Their quickness, patience, and flexibility
intrigued Wang. Using those same ideas, and techniques used by the mantids he
developed praying mantis kungfu.


1)    Profotilov, Hya. History of Praying Mantis Kungfu,

2)    Watkins, Gary. Praying Mantids,

3)    The Care of Mantids,

4)    Bragg, Phil. Praying mantis Care Notes,

5)    Johnson, Sylvia. Mantises, Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Company,


6)    Hess, Lilo. The praying Mantis: Insect Cannibal, New York: Charles

Scribner and Sons, 1971.