The praying mantis is named for its prominent front legs, which are bent and held together at an angle that suggests the position of prayer. The larger group of these insects is more properly called the praying mantis. Mantis refers to the genus mantis, to which only some praying mantis belong. By any name, these fascinating insects are formidable predators. They have triangular heads poised on a long "neck," or elongated thorax. Mantis can turn their heads 180 degrees to scan their surroundings with two large compound eyes and three other simple eyes located between them. Typically green or brown and well camouflaged on the plants among which they live, mantis lie in ambush or patiently stalk their quarry. They use their front legs to snare their prey with reflexes so quick that they are difficult to see with the naked eye. Their legs are further equipped with spikes for snaring prey and pinning it in place. Moths, crickets, grasshoppers, flies, and other insects are usually the unfortunate recipients of unwanted mantis attention. However, the insects will also eat others of their own kind. The most famous example of this is the notorious mating behavior of the adult female, who sometimes eats her mate just after—or even during—mating. Yet this behavior seems not to deter males from reproduction. Females regularly lay hundreds of eggs in a small case, and nymphs hatch looking much like tiny versions of their parents.
FOOD AND REARING: Providing food for a mantid can easily be done by trapping flies or other insects, and releasing them into the mantid's container; a wide-mouth jar covered with a net or screen on top and a twig or branch inside the jar. Insects used for food must be alive and not much bigger than the mantid. If the insect is too small, the mantid will consistently miss and be unable to grasp the prey. Mantids will eat insects dangled from tweezers, and most mantids will not except dead insects. Mantids in captivity do need additional water. Gently place a small wet sponge inside the container every week. The mantids will gather the water off the sponge.
Mantids in captivity do need additional water. Gently mist the container every week depending on the humidity. The mantid will gather the water off the sides of the jar and its body. Taking Care Cleaning Remove the dead insects from the bottom of the container. Long forceps are best to minimize disturbance to the mantid. If the container needs to be cleaned, gently remove the mantid and stick and place in spare, clean container while the container is washed. Handling Mantids are delicate. They can be carefully handled by allowing them to voluntarily walk onto your hand or finger. Mantids will sometimes strike out and it can be very startling. Make sure not to drop the insect with alarm. Raising Young Some adult female mantids will lay egg cases in the container. Continue to care for the female as described. She may lay additional egg cases. After a period of time (varies with species and season) the immature mantids will emerge from the egg case. They will eat each other if additional prey is not provided. Small fruit flies are ideal for small mantids. You can also remove the mantids and set them up in other containers. Other Concerns Precautions Mantids eat often and finding food for lots of immature mantids may get to be exhausting if you do not have a culture of fruit flies available. Do not release mantids outside unless you are sure they are a species that lives in your area.
Best results will be achieved by attaching the egg cases to a twig or a plant using a twistum or wire tie, wrap around the egg case and tie it to a branch in warm location, filtered sunlight. A hanging, swinging egg case is safer from birds and other predators. It will take about 10 to 15 days of good continue warm weather for them to hatch.
When hatching the young will crawl from between the tiny flaps in the egg cases and hang from silken threads about 2" below the case. After drying out the long legged young disappear into the vegetation around the area, leaving little if any trace of their hatching.
This happens within an hour or two and it is difficult to know hatching has occured unless the elusive, well camouflaged young are found. Use this valuable insect in
Adult Males and Females
Females usually have heavier abdomen and are larger than males.
Immature (different stages)
A distinct Styrofoam-like egg case protects Mantis eggs throughout the winter. Up to 200 or more nymphs may emerge from the egg case. The nymphs look like adults except for size and the sexual definition. Coloration and patterns in the nymph stage may be different than the adult.
Praying mantis are highly predacious and feed on a variety of insects, including moths, crickets, grasshoppers and flies. They lie in wait with the front legs in an upraised position. They intently watch and stalk their prey. They will eat each other.
Praying mantis are often protectively colored to the plants they live on. This camouflage facilitates their predaceous behavior. Mantids are usually found on plants that have other insects around. Some mantis live in grass. Winged adults may be attracted to black lights in late summer and early fall.
The adult female usually eats the male after or during mating. Mantis’s grasping response is incredibly rapid, so that you see it before it catches the insect and when the insect is in its front legs. The motion is barely a blur if it is perceived at all.
The compound eyes are capable of seeing images and colors. The three simple eyes perhaps tell the differences between light and dark.. The simple eyes are arranged in a triangle between the antennae. Compound eyes are made up of hundreds of facets constructed with two lenses. These focus the light down on a light sensitive structure (rhabdome) which is connected to the optic nerve.
conjunction with all other beneficial insect releases.