California Mantis: All You Need to Know for a Fascinating Discovery

The California Mantis (Stagmomantis californica) is a fascinating predatory insect native to the western United States, primarily found in California.

Often spotted in gardens and on various plants, these intriguing creatures are well-known for their impressive hunting abilities and unique appearance.

As members of the praying mantis family, California Mantids are expert predators, actively seeking out prey such as aphids, beetles, and crickets.

California Mantis

California Mantis

While they might appear delicate, their powerful front legs are equipped with spines, enabling them to capture and hold onto their prey with ease.

This makes them valuable allies for gardeners looking to control pest populations in a natural way.

Overview of California Mantis

The California Mantis, also known as Stagmomantis Californica, is a species of praying mantis native to the state of California and other parts of the western United States.

This insect is known for its distinct appearance and predatory behavior.

Species Classification

Stagmomantis Californica

The California Mantis belongs to the order Mantodea and the family Mantidae. Characteristics of the species include:

  • Size: Adults typically range from 2 to 3 inches long.
  • Color: Brown, green, or yellowish hues can all be found within a single species.
  • Front Wings: Leathery and narrow in appearance.

Known for their raptorial front legs, these insects are commonly called praying mantises due to their folded posture, which resembles a praying stance.

The Stagmomantis Californica is a beneficial predator in gardens, as it helps control the populations of various pest insects, such as aphids and grasshoppers.

California Mantis Nymph

The California Mantis and other mantids prefer to stay hidden, using camouflage to blend in with leaves and plants.

This allows them to ambush their prey effectively. This species also has a remarkable visual capability, as mantids actively search for their prey using their sight.

A comparison of the California Mantis to a closely related species, the European Mantis (Mantis religiosa):

Feature California Mantis (Stagmomantis Californica) European Mantis (Mantis religiosa)
Size 2 to 5 inches (5-12 cm) 2.4 to 3.9 inches (6-10 cm)
Color Brown, green, yellowish Green, brownish
Front Wings Leathery, narrow Leathery, narrow

To sum up, the California Mantis is a fascinating insect species that plays a vital role in controlling pest populations.

With their excellent hunting abilities and adaptive characteristics, they are a valuable addition to any garden environment.

Physical Characteristics

Size and Appearance

California mantids are relatively large insects, with an adult size ranging from 2 to 3 inches (5-7.5 cm) in length.

Females of this species are typically larger than males.

Their elongated body shape, as well as their specialized front limbs, are distinctive physical features.

Some unique physical characteristics of California mantids include:

  • Head: Triangular in shape with large, prominent compound eyes
  • Legs: Front pair of legs modified into raptorial limbs to snatch prey; hind legs used for movement and stabilization

California Mantis

Wings and Flight

California mantids possess two pairs of wings, with the forewings appearing leathery and narrow.

These wings are functional, giving them the ability to fly.

However, it should be noted that females are less likely to engage in flight due to their larger body size and heavier abdomen, which makes flying more challenging.

Males are capable and especially good flyers.

Color Variations

California mantids display multiple color variations within the same species. They can be found in three primary colors:

  • Green
  • Brown
  • Yellowish

These varied hues help them camouflage within their environment.

In addition to their base color, they can also have black spots, mottled patterns, or a combination of both, to further enhance their ability to blend into their surroundings.

Brown Male California Mantis

Habitat and Range

United States

The California Mantis (Stagmomantis californica) is commonly found in many parts of California.

Within California, this insect occurs throughout the warmer and drier regions of the southern part of the state below elevations of 10,000 feet.

Their preferred habitats consist of:

  • Arid regions
  • Shrublands
  • Coastal sage scrub

They thrive in these drier regions, and can also be found in man-made structures, such as gardens and parks.

Mexico

Heading further south, the California Mantis’ range extends into Mexico.

They’re frequently encountered in the northern part of the country, where the environment is similar to California’s chaparral and desert habitats.

Beyond Mexico

The Californian Mantis’ home also extends eastward into Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and western Texas.

In the late 1980s, they began showing up in southern Idaho and appear to be migrating northward.

Feeding and Hunting Behavior

Diet and Prey

The California mantis is a carnivorous insect with a diet consisting primarily of other insects.

For example, they are known to feed on common garden pests like flies, mosquitoes, and aphids.

Male California Mantis

Occasionally, they may even consume small vertebrates like lizards or frogs if the opportunity arises.

Examples of common prey:

  • Flies
  • Mosquitoes
  • Aphids
  • Small vertebrates (occasionally)

Hunting Techniques

The California mantis utilizes a combination of ambush hunting tactics and quick reflexes, leading to successful hunts.

Their primary technique involves remaining stationary and concealed, striking at prey with their specialized front legs once it enters within reach.

These mantids are capable of capturing multiple prey within a short duration, making them valuable natural pest control agents in gardens and agricultural settings.

Hunting Technique Summary:

  • Remain stationary and concealed
  • Strike with specialized front legs when prey is within reach
  • Can capture multiple prey in a short time, benefiting gardens and agricultural fields

Mating and Reproduction

Mating Process

Praying mantises, like the California mantis, exhibit a unique mating process.

Females are known to sometimes eat their mates, starting with the head.

Surprisingly, the male mantis continues mating even though his head is gone.

Males and females come together to reproduce but otherwise are strictly solitary.

Adults do not overwinter, and their lifespan is seldom more than one year and usually less than nine months.

California Mantis’ Mating

Eggs and Oothecas

After mating, the female mantis focuses on oviposition – laying eggs in an egg case called an ootheca.

By choosing a location that does not expose them to predation, she ensures the safety of her offspring.

Once the eggs are deposited, the adult females leave the scene.

Some key features of oothecas:

  • Protective covering for eggs
  • Made of a foamy substance
  • Hardens to provide durability

Mantis Ootheca

Nymphs and Development

The offspring of praying mantises, called nymphs, are elongated and usually brown, green, or yellowish.

Nymphs of the California mantis can have all three color phases. These nymphs hatch in the spring from hard egg cases laid the previous fall.

They undergo several developmental stages called instars, growing larger and more like their adult form at each stage.

The lifespan of adults is usually less than nine months, with females sometimes surviving longer into the winter season than males.

Comparison of nymph and adult mantises:

Characteristic Nymphs Adults
Size Smaller 2 to 3 inches (5-7.5 cm) long
Wings Absent or undeveloped Leathery and narrow front wings
Color Brown, green, or yellowish Similar to nymphs but may darken over time

California Mantis Nymph

California Mantis as a Beneficial Insect

In the Garden

The California mantis, a common predator in gardens and other outdoor spaces, plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem.

  • Features:
    • Blend in with plants
    • Efficient predators
    • Helps maintain balance in gardens

Some benefits include:

  • Reducing the need for chemical pesticides
  • Enhancing biodiversity
  • Assisting gardeners and farmers in maintaining the health of their plants

Natural Pest Control

A significant advantage of the California mantis is its natural pest control abilities. It helps protect gardens from various pests that are harmful to plants.

  • Prey:
    • Aphids
    • Caterpillars
    • Whiteflies

Examples of plants benefiting from a mantis presence include:

  • Tomatoes
  • Roses
  • Fruit trees

Commercial Use

Because of the California mantis’ ability to control pests, it is often used in commercial applications for farmers and gardeners.

These insects can be purchased and released into gardens to assist with pest control.

Pros:

  1. Environmentally friendly
  2. Reduces reliance on chemical pesticides
  3. Supports biodiversity

Cons:

  1. Can prey on beneficial insects
  2. May not solve pest problem entirely
  3. Can move away from intended areas

California Mantis on Primrose

Comparison Table:

Method Pros Cons
CA Mantis Natural, environmentally friendly, supports biodiversity Predatory, not a complete solution, can move away
Chemical Sprays Can be targeted, widely available, immediate results Harmful to environment, kills beneficial insects too, expensive

Keeping a California Mantis as a Pet

Housing and Environment

A California mantis (Stagmomantis californica) can make an interesting and unique pet.

To create a suitable environment, follow these guidelines:

  • Enclosure size: Provide a cage or terrarium that is at least 3 times the length of the mantis, and twice its width.
  • Ventilation: Ensure proper airflow with a mesh or screen top.
  • Climbing materials: Place twigs, branches, and plants for the mantis to climb and rest on.

Temperature and lighting are also essential for your mantis:

  • Temperature: Maintain a temperature between 75°F and 85°F for optimal health.
  • Lighting: Offer a natural light source or artificial lights for 12-14 hours per day to mimic their natural habitat.

Feeding and Care

A California mantis requires a diet rich in protein, which includes a variety of insects. Here are some examples:

  • Small mantids: Feed aphids, which can be found on roses, fruit trees, or purchased at a pet store.
  • Adult mantids: Offer grasshoppers, beetles, and crickets, available at pet stores.

As you care for your mantis, consider its growth and seasonal needs:

  • Molting: Keep handling to a minimum, especially during molting to prevent injury.
  • Overwintering: Some owners choose to overwinter their mantis outdoors, allowing it to experience natural seasonal changes. However, this might shorten its lifespan.

With proper housing, environment, feeding, and care, your California mantis can thrive as a captivating pet.

Other Species of Mantises

The California mantis is just one of many mantis species.

Let’s take a look at some other notable species in the mantis family, focusing on the Chinese mantis and the Mediterranean mantis.

Chinese Mantis:

The Chinese mantis is native to Asia and was introduced to the United States in the late 1800s.

It’s significantly larger than the California mantis, reaching lengths up to 4 inches.

  • Widely found in the U.S.
  • Excellent camouflage abilities
  • Strong flyers

Mediterranean Mantis:

The Mediterranean mantis is common in Southern Europe, but not much information is available about its characteristics.

Here’s a comparison table of the mentioned mantis species to help you understand their differences:

Species Size Native Region Color Variations Introduction to U.S.
California Mantis 2 to 5 inches Western U.S. Brown, Green, Yellowish Native
Chinese Mantis Up to 4 inches Asia Brown and Green Late 1800s
Mediterranean Mantis Unknown Southern Europe Unknown Unknown

Different mantis species have varying features, but they all share some common traits. They all:

  • Have elongated bodies
  • Possess a distinctive “praying” posture
  • Are predators of other small insects

Taxonomy

The California mantis (Stagmomantis californica or Stagmomantis wheeleri), a member of the order Mantodea, is a fascinating insect belonging to the family Mantidae.

As part of the Stagmomantis genus, this large, elongate creature can be found in various colors, including brown, green, and yellowish.

Here’s a quick comparison of the California mantis’ taxonomic classification:

Classification Name
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Arthropoda
Class Insecta
Order Mantode

Conclusion

In conclusion, the California Mantis (Stagmomantis californica) is a captivating predator, native to the warmer, drier regions of the western United States and extending into Mexico.

Exhibiting a range of colors for effective camouflage, this solitary insect plays a pivotal role in controlling pest populations, making it a valuable ally for gardeners and an intriguing pet.

While commonly found in California, it is gradually expanding its range, showcasing its adaptability and significance in diverse ecosystems.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about California mantis’. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Native California Mantis Ootheca and female Mantis

Subject:  Mantis Ootheca and adult, female California Mantis
Geographic location of the bug:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, CA
Date: 10/08/2018
Time: 5:30 PM PDT
We have a long overdue update on our She’s a Man-Eater posting.  Several days after the mating and cannibalistic meal that followed on our porchlight, Daniel relocated the female California Mantis in the genus
Stagmomantis (not sure if species is S. californica or S. limbata as both species are reported from Los Angeles) to the plum trees in back, and after a day, we could no longer find her, but we did locate this ootheca in the branches not far from where we released her.

Mantis Ootheca

Then we found a female Mantis nearby, but we cannot say for certain she is the same individual.  Now that January has arrived, the ootheca is still in place and it has still not hatched.

Female California Mantis
Female California Mantis

Letter 2 – Another Male California Mantis at the porch light

and the one that got away was even bigger.
September 14, 2012
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, CA

Male California Mantis

There were actually two male California Mantids at the porch light that morning, but by the time we got the camera, one had flown away.  Mantids are awesome predators and this image of a Mantis being eaten by possibly Argentine Ants makes our blood boil.

Letter 3 – California Mantid nymph

Subject:  Immature California Mantid
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
May 7, 2016
We continue to encounter young California Mantids in the garden.  This youngster was perched atop a primrose.

Immature California Mantis
Immature California Mantis

Letter 4 – California Mantid Nymph

Brown California Mantis nymph on Palo Verde
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
July 11, 2016 6:30 PM
We have been monitoring the California Mantid hatchlings in our yard after finding five oothecae on the same butterfly bush occupied by a California Mantid late last summer.  There is a forest of primrose with many 7 foot tall plants in a small patch of our yard, and we have observed at least six green California Mantid nymphs there over the past few weeks. 

The California Mantid can be either green or brown, and there is some evidence that the coloration is tied to the surroundings, though one might counter that both green and brown Mantids might exist in the same location, and those that are better camouflaged avoid predators and consequently survive to pass on their genes as opposed to the notion that the Mantid will change color depending upon the surroundings. 

The Palo Verde is currently blooming and its blossoms are bright yellow.  We just spotted our first brown California Mantid on the Palo Verde.  Though we acknowledge that cannibalism is most likely occurring with the larger mantids devouring the smaller ones, nonetheless, there are far more this year than we have ever seen in the past.  Thankfully we spotted those five oothecae last season while trimming dead branches.

California Mantid nymph on Palo Verde
California Mantid nymph on Palo Verde

Letter 5 – California Mantids growing larger in the WTB? garden

Subject:  California Mantis
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
August 18, 2017 8:25 am
Last week, Daniel took this image of this immature California Mantis perched on a primrose.  They sure are growing.  Just yesterday, Daniel found three similar sized California Mantids in the garden.

California Mantis

Letter 6 – California Mantids Patrol Herb Garden

Subject:  California Mantis on Cannabis
Geographic location of the bug:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
Date: 08/29/2021
Time: 09:39 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Dear Bugman,
I have really been enjoying watching the California Mantids growing bigger on my Cannabis plants, indicating that they are eating well.  Last week I spotted my first mature female California Mantis and today I spotted my first mature male.
How you want your letter signed:  Constant Gardener

Immature female California Mantis

Dear Constant Gardener,
Thanks for keeping us informed about the insects that you find in your garden.

Mature California Mantis
immature male California Mantis
Immature Male California Mantis
Mature Male California Mantis

Letter 7 – California Mantids proliferate at the WTB? office

Subject:  California Mantids on Primrose
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
August 8, 2017
Though we have a long history of being visited by California Mantids, in recent years they have become more plentiful.  We just spotted a gorgeous female nymph on a primrose plant.  There seems to be a significant size discrepancy between her and other mantids found, also on primrose.

Female California Mantis Nymph on Primrose
Immature California Mantis

Letter 8 – California Mantis

October 8, 2008
We awoke early this morning to take out the garbage and noticed the numerous Painted Arachnis Moths on the screen door. The Santa Ana winds are blowing and moths get quite plentiful when that happens. Something flew from the door as we opened it and our first thought was that it was an Angular Winged Katydid.

Imagine our shocked surprise to find this wonderful California Mantis, Stagmomantis californica, perched on the porch light. In the 13 1/2 years we have lived in Mt Washington, this is a first for our yard. We have seen occasional Mantids in the vicinity, and at work, but never in the yard. According to Charles Hogue in his book Insects of the Los Angeles Basin:

“The species prefers an arboreal habitat and is primarily found on shrubs of the Coastal Sage plant community. Males are often attracted to lights.” We rushed to get the camera to document this garden first for us.

California Mantis
California Mantis

Daniel:
Yes, you have there a male mantis of the genus Stagmomantis. Males are much smaller than females. You probably were remembering the big Chinese mantids or European mantids from back in Ohio; both are introduced (non-native) species.
Eric Eaton

Update: October 9, 2008
Eric reminded us that we never mentioned that our little male California Mantis is only about two inches long. He was still on the porch light when we returned from work after sunset last evening, and he remains in place this morning.

Curiously, our good friend Helene who lives in nearby Glassell Park emailed us about the mantis that appeared on her porch the same day ours appeared. She promises to send a photo today.

Letter 9 – California Mantis

What kind of Mantis is this guy?
Location:  Tucson, Arizona
August 25, 2010 5:20 pm
Hey, I live in Arizona. It’s a mild high-90’s day in Tucson, and we’ve had lots of rain, and I came home to find this guy on my door. It doesn’t look exactly like any mantis I’ve seen before. Was only about 2 1/2 – 3 inches long.
Curious, Jonathan

California Mantis

Hi Jonathan,
We believe your mantis is a California Mantis,
Stagomantis californica, and we believe it is an individual female because the wings are so underdeveloped and because of the shape of the abdomen. According to BugGuide there are:  “Green, yellow, brown color phases.

Abdomen has dark bands. Body form similar to other members of its genus.” You may compare your image to images on BugGuide, but there are no green specimens on the website at the stage of development of your individual.

Letter 10 – California Mantis

Who is this Mantis?
Location:  Sierra Madre, Ca
September 26, 2010 7:16 pm
This mantis was on my back patio in a Sierra Madre, Ca canyon neighborhood in October of last year. Please tell me everything 🙂
Signature:  Melanie

California Mantis

Dear Melanie,
You were lucky enough to see a female California Mantis, a native species.  BugGuide has a nice image comparing the brown and green morphs of the California Mantis,
Stagomantis californica.

California Mantis

Letter 11 – California Mantis

Praying Mantis?
Location:  3700 foot elevation in the northern Sierra’s
September 29, 2010 10:09 pm
I found this guy cruising around my yard. It looks like a praying mantis but I have seen those here and they are green. This one looks kinda camo color. Your help to identify this creature would be appreciated.
Signature:  GB

California Mantis

Dear GB,
This is indeed a Mantis.  We believe it is
Stagomantis californica, the California Mantis, a native species that can be green or brown.  Some tropical Mantids can even come in colors like yellow and pink.

Letter 12 – California Mantis

Subject:  Dead Leaf Mantis?
Geographic location of the bug:  Pollock Pines, California
Date: 08/10/2018
Time: 03:50 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Bugman, we found this mantis in a pile of manzanita and other bush trimmings. It’s abdomen resembles a dead leaf, but is this a dead leaf mantis? Thanks in advance.
How you want your letter signed:  ~ John

Probably California Mantis

Dear ~ John,
This is an immature native Mantis in the genus
Stagmomantis, and we believe it is a California Mantis, Stagmomantis californicus, but we would not rule out that it is the very similar looking Bordered Mantis, Stagmomantis limbata, as their ranges overlap in California. 

Both species come in brown and green forms, and the color tends to vary based on where they are living.  Green individuals are often found on fresh green growth while brown individuals are better camouflaged on drier plants.  Here is a BugGuide image for comparison.

Daniel,
You’re amazing. I knew it couldn’t be a dead leaf, but what I couldn’t think of anything else to call it!  We’ve only ever found green ones in Pollock Pines.  This brown one fit right in with the bush clippings.  Thank you for your time and ID.  We love finding Mantises.
~ John

Letter 13 – California Mantis and Green Lynx Spider: Two Predators on a Woody Plant

Subject:  Drama on my Sweet Sarah clone
Geographic location of the bug:  Mt. Washington, Los Angeles, California
Date: 08/04/2018
Time: 11:08 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Dear Bugman,
I hope you don’t mind that I keep sending pictures of the same two predators that have taken up residence on my Sweet Sarah clone.  The California Mantis was missing for a few days and then it reappeared looking quite a bit bigger.  I noticed this drama today.

What was really interesting was that as soon as she got close to the Green Lynx Spider, he leaped out of reach.  I haven’t found a single grasshopper on this plant, while I have to pick them off the rest of my crop.
How you want your letter signed:  Constant Gardener

California Mantis stalks Green Lynx Spider on a Woody Plant

Dear Constant Gardener,
Keep your images coming.  We applaud your organic gardening methods and natural pest control.  When an insect molts, it becomes much more vulnerable to attack, at least until its new exoskeleton hardens. 

Since your California Mantis has grown, it must have molted, so it probably was in hiding until its new exoskeleton hardened sufficiently, explaining why it was missing for a few days. 

Letter 14 – California Mantis eats Katydid

Subject:  Update on our 25,000th Posting
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
Date:  10/28/2017
Time:  10:00 PM
Three weeks ago we went live with our 25,000th posting, and the female California Mantis that has been living on our porch light is still there.  We don’t know if she mated with the male from that posting, or ate him, or if he just flew off, but she is swelling.  We know she is eating well. 

We have seen her eating a Painted Tiger Moth and we watched her catch another moth, but yesterday evening, we arrived home to find her feasting on a female Scudder’s Bush Katydid that was attracted to the light. 

It seems she is ready to begin producing oothecae, and we can’t decide if we should relocate her to a shrub, or leave her and let nature take its course, but as the weather begins to cool, we fear she is nearing the end of her life and we hope she produces progeny.

Mantis Eats Katydid (image courtesy of Susan Lutz)

Letter 15 – Spring in Los Angeles: California Mantis Hatchling in Mount Washington

Subject:  California Mantis Ootheca hatches in Mount Washington
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
April 5, 2016
Last August, we created a posting for a lost photo opportunity of a California Mantis and a Figeater together on a butterfly bush that we missed when the camera malfunctioned. 

A few weeks ago, a branch on the butterfly bush was broken, and when we cut it free from the plant, we noticed three California Mantis oothecae, obviously deposited by the female we observed there. 

We tied two of the oothecae to a nearby palo verde and the third to a plum tree in the back yard.  While out in the yard, we inspected the oothecae, and noticed that one appeared to have hatched out its brood.  Luckily we spotted one little Mantis hatchling, a mere 1/4 inch in length, scuttling away.

California Mantis Hatchling
California Mantis Hatchling
Hatched Ootheca of a California Mantis
Hatched Ootheca of a California Mantis

Update:  April 11, 2016
We did some gardening yesterday, and though we couldn’t be bothered getting the camera, we did find two additional oothecae on the butterfly bush, and as we were pulling weeds, we found two green 1/4 inch long green mantids scuttling around the low grass.

Letter 16 – California Mantis hatchling patrols Woody Plant

Subject:  Mantis
Geographic location of the bug:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
Date: 05/17/2019
Time: 06:32 PM PDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Dear Bugman,
My Cannabis sprouts are growing, and I just found this tiny Mantis on one of the plants.
How you want your letter signed: Constant Gardener

Mantis hatchling

Dear Constant Gardener,
We appreciate your first submission of 2019 and we eagerly await more documentation of the insects associated with your 2019 crop.

Letter 17 – California Mantis in Mt Washington

Location:  Mt Washington, Los Angeles, California
October 2, 2011
We saw the third male California Mantis,
Stagmomantis californica, in a week today.  The first was in Claremont California on Monday.  The disoriented creature was on a terrified student’s shirt, but Daniel rescued it and released it in the bushes.  The second was at the Mt Washington Homeowners Alliance at the Carlin G Smith Center in Mt Washington on Tuesday at the board meeting. 

The poor confused mantis kept flying into the ceiling fans until it was captured and released outdoors onto a toyon bush.  The third was tonight at our Mt Washington offices, and luckily there was a camera available.  The poor California Mantis was trapped in an Orbweaver’s web, though the spider was not to be seen. 

Perhaps it moved to another location or perhaps it fell victim to a predator.  The Mantis was rescued and released and it promptly flew away, but a few minutes later it returned and posed for some photos taken with an electronic on camera flash.

California Mantis

Update:  October 3, 2011
The California Mantis is still resting on the light fixture the next morning.

California Mantis

Letter 18 – California Mantis Ootheca

Subject: Barnacle-like insect found
Location: Los Angeles, CA
December 1, 2015 4:02 pm
Dear bugaman,
We noticed this oval, barnacle-like, 1″ long larva (?) attached to the underside of our wooden fort today. We are very curious what it might be!
We touched it very gently. – the spine is smooth and slick .
Signature: Moses, age 3 and his Mama

California Mantis Ootheca
California Mantis Ootheca

Dear Moses and his Mama,
This is an ootheca or egg case of a native Preying Mantis in the genus
Stagmomantis, most likely the California Mantis, Stagmomantis californica.  See this BugGuide image for comparison.

Thank you so much! We had continued to investigate and thought it was preying mantis – we are so grateful for the confirmation and details.

Letter 19 – California Mantis? or Slim Mexican Mantis???

Unknow mantid species, from western Colorado
September 5, 2009
I found a matid on a camping trip in Colorado. It is not the European mantid and I am having trouble figuring out what species it is. It is about two inches long, brown with grey “spots” and a white and gray spotted stripe down the side of the body on the wings. It is similar in form to the european mantid, but slightly smaller and more slender. I found it in a restroom near Grand Junction, CO, in August.
Alicia
Colorado National Monument

California Mantis we believe
California Mantis we believe

Hi Alicia,
WE believe this is a California Mantis, Stagomantis californica, but we would not rule out the possibility that this is a Slim Mexican Mantis, Oligonicella mexicana.  Perhaps someone with more skill than we have will be able to assist in this ID.

California Mantis we believe
California Mantis we believe

Update from Eric Eaton
September 6, 2009
Daniel:
I agree with all three of your identifications.  Nice work.  The mantis is a male, and extremely pale with few markings, making it a real tough specimen to identify.
Eric

Letter 20 – European Mantis we believe

Subject: Lives with me, need ID! Mantis.
Location: San Jose, CA USA
September 17, 2013 12:03 am
Hey Bugman! My name is Becky and I have an insect page on facebook called Go Ahead, BUG me. Do I know you? 🙂
Last week on my birthday a mantis flew into our backyard at night and the dog sort of got it but I rescued the cutie. He now has a nice enclosure, lots of food and lives with me…

Only problem is, I want to know what type he is! I post mantis photos all the time on my site but the mantis are usually exotic looking ones. Can you help me with my mantis Andy?

Location: San Jose, CA. Came in due to moths flying at light out back door I think. But we do have lavendar bushes and tomato plants. We also have avacodo trees all around the yard. This is the first mantis I have EVER seen in my yard.

He is about 2 inches and he can fly somewhat. His eyes are dark brown, almost black. Oh, he also has a black dot on his armpit.
I have some photos.
By the way, I am here too much to admit. I love this site and have learned so much from every single post I read! Thanks for such … AMAZING!
~Becky
Signature: Becky Randal

Male California Mantis
Male European Mantis

Hi Becky,
Thanks for the compliments.  So many Mantids found in North American Gardens are introduced species, that it is refreshing to get photos of native Mantids.  We are nearly certain this is a male California Mantis, Stagmomantis californica, and you can find more information on it on BugGuide
where it states:  “Males fly well, and often come to lights, presumably when they are dispersing. Females are more sedentary.”

Male California Mantis
Male European Mantis

Correction:  October 14, 2013
Draco just wrote in to correct us by informing us that this is a European Mantis.

Letter 21 – The eventual demise of the WTB? California Mantis

Subject:  Eggbound California Mantid
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
Date:  November 11, 2017
We have been posting images of the female California Mantis that lived on our porch light for much of the early autumn season, including the 25,000th Posting on our site.  She continued to thrive on the insects attracted to the porch light, and three weeks later we posted an image of her devouring a mature Bush Katydid

Two weeks later, we arrived home and she was not on the light, but she was perched below on the top of the broom handle, but something was clearly wrong.  Her abdomen had burst and we saw what we at first thought might be larvae of a parasite, but we later presumed were her unlaid eggs, but what caused this trauma? 

Perhaps she fell from the light and burst open when she hit the ground.  We suspected she would soon die, and we put her on a camelia in the garden.  When we checked on her progress later in the evening, we found her bent double, licking her wound.

Wounded Female California Mantis

The next morning the Argentine Ants had discovered her and were crawling on her legs.  We knew she would lose that encounter, so we moved her to a potted willow where she lived a few more days and eventually vanished, only to be discovered clinging to the side of the house, dead, her eggs never laid. 

We put her body in a protected location and we wonder if though unlaid, perhaps her eggs might hatch next spring, protected from the elements by her body instead of a frothy ootheca.

Injured Female California Mantis

Letter 22 – Exuvia of a California Mantis

Subject:  Praying Mantis
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, CA
October 2, 2017
2:38 PM
Hi Daniel,
I found a desiccated praying mantis caught in a thick spider web.  Must have been sticky… aren’t they strong enough to pull themselves out of a web?
Great Autumn day, my favorite time of the year.
Monique

Mantis Exuvia

Hi Monique,
Look more closely at your image.  See the split down the back and empty shell?  This is an exuvia, the shed exoskeleton of a Preying Mantis.  Somewhere in your garden, there is probably an adult Preying Mantis. 

This is the time of year they are maturing, mating and laying eggs in an ootheca in preparation for the start of a new generation next spring.

Letter 23 – Female California Mantis

Wednesday, October 8, 2008, at 02:16 PM
A praying mantis has moved in and is calling my porch home.  I met her on
the screen door in the morning.  She was a beautiful dark green and tan.
She was back on the screen door when I came home after 9pm that evening.
She was light green color this time.

Since I haven’t seen a praying mantis around here I looked her up on the web
to find out why she had taken up residence near my porch light.  Ah ha!  She
was slowly climbing the screen door to get the the moths flying around the
light.

I just saw her again this afternoon.  She’s just hanging on the porch light,
upside down, waiting…waiting.  Oh, and her color is brown now.
h

funny, her mate moved onto my porch light last night. The photo is on www.whatsthatbug.com right now. He is still here tonight, catching moths at the porch light. Wish you would send a photo.
D.

I’ll shoot her in the morning when I can see her without the porch light
blinding the shot.  But I wish I had a better camera to catch her catching
her catch.  It’s quite creepy the way she pivots her head whenever I walk
out the door.

Yes.  Great photo.  Same species.  I’ll photograph mine in the morning.
Amazing how their heads can turn 180 degrees.  It’s shape and movement
reminds me of the aliens in War of the Worlds.  Mine is a picky eater.  The
moths are actually bumping into her but she’s waiting for the juiciest one
to drop on her.

Thursday, October 9, 2008
Sorry this comes too late for the morning edition.  Also sorry for the lack
of control over the exposure.   …if I had more time…!
Notice the boring beige camouflage of our little gal.  I guess she was just
adding the appropriate color to blend with the existing brown and black.

Female California Mantis
Female California Mantis

Thanks Helene,
It appears you really do have a female. Perhaps we can set our respective guests up with a blind dinner date.

Letter 24 – Female California Mantis discovered at WTB? Office

Subject:  California Mantis in Mount Washington
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
December 7, 2013 4:30 PM
Yesterday, we decided to abandon the computer and attempt to get some yardwork done.  We have some primrose plants that have naturalized in the garden and the stalks grow well over eight feet high if conditions are right. 

Though the flowers aren’t showy, we allow the plants to grow because the Lesser Goldfinches love the seeds and we get small flocks of the pretty birds extracting seeds from the seed capsules for many months after the plants dry.  We decided to pull a few plants out and just as it was getting dark, the well camouflaged female California Mantis jumped onto the pavement after its home was disturbed. 

In the waning light, we managed to get a few photos.  Since we have had a cold snap and since she was somewhat lethargic, we decided to bring her indoors in a small habitat until temperatures warm up again toward midweek. 

Nighttime temperatures are expected to dip into the high 30s for the next few day, and we hope to be able to prolong this California Mantid’s life for a bit longer by sheltering her from the cold.

Female California Mantis
Female California Mantis

Update:  December 10, 2013
Well, it has gotten a bit warmer in Los Angeles, so we released the female California Mantis onto the wisteria in the back yard where there is a southern exposure, hence it is the sunniest and warmest part of the yard.  We hope our intervention increases her life span and that she reproduces in our garden.

California Mantis three days later
California Mantis three days later

Letter 25 – Female California Mantis eats immature Gray Bird Grasshopper on Woody Plant

Subject:  California Mantis patrolling my Woody Plant captures marauding Grasshopper
Geographic location of the bug:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
Date:  09/09/2017
Time:  10:37 AM EDT
Dear Bugman,
Last week I sent you pictures of the female California Mantis that is patrolling my Woody Plant.  Well, today I am happy to report that she is doing her job.  I found her eating this large green grasshopper.  I wish I could have seen the actual capture, but I didn’t arrive until after the Grasshopper had its head eaten away.  Much earlier in the summer, I removed some small green Grasshoppers that you identified as a Gray Bird Grasshopper, a funny name since it was green.
How you want your letter signed:  Constant Gardener

Female California Mantis eats Gray Bird Grasshopper nymph

Dear Constant Gardener,
The prey in your image is indeed a Gray Bird Grasshopper nymph, and it is much larger than the individual in your submission from early July of a Gray Bird Grasshopper nymph

The reason these green nymphs are called Gray Bird Grasshoppers is because that is the color of the mature adult.  Nymphs feeding on fresh green leaves need to blend in or they will be eaten.  Your female California Mantis is beautifully camouflaged among the leaves of your plant, especially when she is downwardly hanging.

Thanks Bugman,
Do you have any further advice regarding caring for my guard insect?

Hi again Constant Gardener,
If a mature, mated California Mantis finds a safe plant where the hunting is good, she will remain there.  She will eventually produce and attach to woody stems, several oothecae, the egg cases that each contain dozens of eggs that will hatch into mantidlings in the spring. 

When you harvest, keep a diligent eye peeled for the oothecae.  In our own garden, we tie the oothecae we discover while pruning in the fall and winter onto trees and shrubs where we would like to have predators that keep injurious species at bay.

Letter 26 – Female California Mantis found in Mount Washington

California Mantis Relocated to WTB? Garden
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
October 25, 2013
Tuesday night after the MWHA board meeting, Daniel and some fellow board members noticed this female California Mantis in the corner of an alcove with a spider web wrapped around her leg.  The stucco entrapment did not seem the ideal location for her health and welfare, so Daniel transported her home in a film box and released her on the zinnia.  She has been patrolling the garden for prey ever since.

Female California Mantis
Female California Mantis

Letter 27 – Female California Mantis patrols Woody Plant

Subject:  Look what I found patrolling my Woody Plant
Geographic location of bug:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
Date:  9/1/2017
Time:  11:32 PM
Dear Bugman,
From searching your website, I believe this is a California Mantis.  Can you confirm?
How you want your letter signed:  Constant Gardener

Female California Mantis

Dear Constant Gardener,
You are correct that this is a California Mantis, and the short wings indicate that it is a mature female California Mantis.  Congratulations on having such a good security system to protect your plants from critters that might want to eat them.

Female California Mantis

Letter 28 – Finally, a female Stagmomantis visits the offices of WTB?

Female California Mantis
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
September 23, 2012

Female  Mantis

The staff didn’t feel like cooking lunch today, so we headed out for a Fusion Burger in Highland Park.  On the way to the car, we spotted this female California Mantis on the power box and headed back in for the camera and we took a few photographs. 

We suspect she may have been displaced since we have been trimming trees and shrubs this weekend, and we always leave the lid on the green bin open in the event that any critters were thrown away with the branches.  She was found not far from the green bin.


For the past few weeks, we have been seeing male California Mantids near the porch light, and we have already made several postings.  After lunch we relocated this plump female California Mantis to the basil plant in the front garden, and within 30 seconds she had caught a Honey Bee. 

Another curious Honey Bee kept on checking out what was happening with her hive mate as the luckless bee was eaten.

Female Mantis eats Honey Bee

Update:  January 2, 2013
We received a comment correcting our identification and informing us that this is
Stagmomantis limbata, not the California Mantis in the same genus.  We are linking to the BugGuide page while we await clarification how to distinguish one species from the other.

 

Letter 29 – First hatchling California Mantis sighted in Mount Washington

Subject:  Hatchling California Mantis
Geographic Location of the bug:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, CA
Date:  Monday, January 22, 2018
Time:  4:30 PM PST
This past Monday, while taking an unrelated photo of a model using a 4×5 camera and film, Daniel spotted a hatchling California Mantis on the patio roof.  It was scuttling along quite quickly and without a digital camera handy, the sighting went unrecorded. 

The proximity of this sighting to the body of the female California Mantis that died without laying eggs has only fueled Daniel’s unrealistic hope that some eggs might hatch, protected by the body of their dead mother. 

Though that is a remote fantasy, this is nonetheless an extremely early sighting for a Mantis hatchling in Southern California as we don’t normally see hatchlings until April, but this has been a warm and dry Southern California winter thusfar. 

Lacking an image of the hatchling, we are posting a scanned photo from a 4×5 negative of the final resting place (an empty aquarium) of our female California Mantis that died after an unknown trauma caused her egg-filled abdomen to burst.  Meanwhile we will search for more hatchlings in the coming weeks.

Dead female California Mantis (filled with eggs)

Letter 30 – Green Lynx Spider eats male California Mantis

Subject: Hunter & Hunted
Location: Rose Hill/Montecito Heights
September 14, 2013 10:48 am
Good morning Daniel,
It’s been a while since I’ve had time to go through the site for all of the new submissions however this morning I saw something I thought to be share-worthy.
This year has brought to my yard many Green Lynx spiders as well as several mantids.

This one [Lynx] in particular made it into my house last week. Here size amazed me, full leg spread makes her about the size of a half dollar with a body the diameter of a quarter.

After a failed photo shoot where she jumped on me I escorted her out to my potted orange tree vaguely recalling I had seen a juvenile mantis some weeks ago but never again. Well… I think the pictures tell the rest of the story.

Ironically, I think his nest mate (a female) on my chili plant made short work of the Lynx that were there over the last few weeks. Brother not so lucky.
Signature: joAnn

Green Lynx Spider eats California Mantis
Green Lynx Spider eats California Mantis

Dear joAnn,
Thanks for submitting this wonderful documentation of a Green Lynx Spider eating what we believe is a male California Mantis.  We hope he had a chance to mate with the female on your chili plant so that you will have a new generation next year.  Even though you are across the freeway, we are tagging your submission as a Mount Washington posting.

Green Lynx Spider eats California Mantis
Green Lynx Spider eats California Mantis

Update:  September 14, 2013 7:30 PM
Hi Daniel,
I checked in on them this evening and found that she’s still feeding. Her abdomen has blown up considerably while the mantis has become all but translucent.
Here’s a follow up shot, unfortunately I had to use my phone so it’s not as crisp – I think it still conveys her progress. Hopefully they didn’t take out all of my mantis babies. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for a new batch next year.
Enjoy your evening,
joAnn

Green Lynx Spider feeds on California Mants
Green Lynx Spider feeds on California Mants

Hi joAnn,
Thanks for the update.  We suspect this well-fed Green Lynx Spider will be producing one or more egg sacs in the very near future.  Your posting has really struck a chord with our readership as there are 15 “likes” this morning.

Letter 31 – Immature California Mantis

Unusual mantis?
Location: Corona, CA
August 16, 2011 7:48 pm
I love your site, and visit every time I notice an unusual insect to try to identify it.
I was taking a short break after pulling some weeds this afternoon and found this unusual-looking (to me) mantis. In fact, just a couple seconds after I noticed it, it grabbed the fly you see it eating. (Yay mantis!)
Anyways, we have a lot of Stagmomantis californica around here every summer — I was happy to see a bunch of 3/4-inch babies when I was gardening the week before last — but I’ve never seen one quite like this.

I looked at all the photos on your site and didn’t find anything quite like it. It’s about 2 inches long, so it’s not newly hatched, but it has a ”curled” thorax and no visible wings(?). Plus it’s obviously brown, which I also haven’t seen here before(??). I’m going to assume it is in fact a Stagmomantis californica, but at interesting development stage…and soo cute!
Thanks again for your interesting and entertaining site.
Signature: kasey15

Immature California Mantis

Hi kasey15,
We are going to go out on a limb and identify this immature Preying Mantis as a California Mantis based on the frequency of their sightings in your area as well as its similarity to this photo posted on BugGuide that also contains numerous comments on the curling of the abdomen, not the thorax. 

We normally try to do our postings in the morning, but today we have personal commitments, and we are not certain how many posts we will be able to make before signing off for the day.

Letter 32 – Immature California Mantis

Subject:  Immature California Mantis comes to porch light
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
July 17, 2017 5:37 PM
Each year, we are treated to both immature California Mantids and adult California Mantids that visit our porch light.

Immature California Mantis

Letter 33 – Immature California Mantis on Woody Plant

Subject:  Mantis on my Woody Plant
Geographic location of bug:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
Date:  6/21/2018
Time:  10:01 AM
Your letter to the bugman:  Dear Bugman,
It is another year and another growing season.  I am growing more woody plants this year than I grew last year and I observed my first young Mantis today.  Hopefully it will eat grasshoppers and other insects that might negatively affect my crop this year.
How you want your letter signed:  Constant Gardener

Immature California Mantis

Dear Constant Gardener,
Thanks for the update on your gardening exploits.  We looked at some of your postings from last year and we see you did have California Mantids in your garden.  It seems they reproduced and have progeny to take up the job of patrolling your Woody Plants.  Please keep submitting images.  Many of our readers may benefit from what you are learning.

Letter 34 – Immature California Mantis visits office of WTB?

Subject:  California Mantis Nymph
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
June 30, 2015 10:00 PM
We were thrilled to see this immature California Mantis,
Stagmomantis californicus, crawling up the screen door, moving toward the porch light where the moths were circling.  We love our first Mantis sighting each year, and the porch light is often a lure because of the bounty of food.  This morning, the little guy was perched on the picture window.

Immature California Mantis
Immature California Mantis
Immature California Mantis
Immature California Mantis

Letter 35 – Immature California Mantis visits Porch Light

Immature California Mantis
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, CA
August 12, 2012
We couldn’t help but wonder what might have eaten the Scudder’s Bush Katydid whose remains we found by the front door this morning.  Nothing remained but the wings and legs, so we knew a spider was not the predator. 

Then this afternoon we spotted this immature California Mantis at the porch light.  Though we never saw the predation, we are relatively certain this California Mantis was the predator even though the Katydid was about the same size as the Mantis.

Immature California Mantis

 

Letter 36 – Immature California Mantis visits WTB?

Subject:  Immature California Mantis
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
July 5, 2015
Since we have been experiencing technical difficulties with our submission form, we have not been receiving the number of identification requests we normally experience at this time of year.  We apologize to all of you who are unable to submit images for identification purposes. 

Meanwhile, it is giving us an opportunity to post a few visitors to our offices.  Each year we see several California Mantids in the garden, and this immature hunter was prowling the Hoja Santa leaves for prey.  The next day we saw another individual on the porch light where the moth hunting was quite good.

Immature California Mantis
Immature California Mantis

 

Letter 37 – Immature California Mantis on Woody Plant Continued

Subject:  The Mantis on my Woody Plant is growing
Geographic location of bug:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
Date:  7/10/2018
Time:  6:46 AM
Your letter to the bugman:  Dear Bugman,
I thought you might be interested in a follow-up on the Mantis on my woody plant I wrote about three weeks ago.  Last week I saw a shed exoskeleton (sorry no photo) and after disappearing for the day I made that discovery, the Mantis returned and has been back living on my Sweet Sarah clone ever since.  The Mantis has gotten bigger.

A Green Lynx Spider shared the plant for about a week, but today the Mantis is where the Green Lynx used to be and the Green Lynx is gone.  I have not seen this Mantis eat.  Both the Mantis and my plants survived the heat wave last weekend.
How you want your letter signed:  Constant Gardener

Immature California Mantis on Sweet Sarah clone

Dear Constant Gardener,
Thanks for the update on the immature California Mantis you found on your Woody Plant.  We suspect it is the product of the female California Mantis you documented last year.

Update:  July 11, 2018
After noticing a Facebook posting by Jason RE who wrote:  “‘woody plant’ silly rabbit that is marijuana, not seeing any buds” we decided we needed to crop the image so the well camouflaged mantis is more noticeable.

Immature California Mantis

Letter 38 – Kleptoparasitism: Freeloader Flies plague California Mantis devouring Prey on a Woody Plant

Subject:  What are these Flies eating with the California Mantis?
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
Date: 07/23/2018
Time: 07:04 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Dear Bugman,
The California Mantis living on my Sweet Sarah clone is growing, but today was the first time I saw it with a meal, but these flies were swarming around and the Mantis was shaking its head and moving, but the flies kept pestering.

I watched this for about a half an hour at which time the flies finally tired and flew off.  What are they?  I couldn’t see what the Mantis was eating, but it was green.  There are lots of tiny Grasshoppers on my plants.
How do you want your letter signed:  Constant Gardener

Freeloader Flies Kleptoparasitize Feeding Mantis

Dear Constant Gardener,
Your image is amazing.  We quickly located this image on Colin Purrington Nature Photography that looks remarkably like your image, but the Flies are not identified, but they are compared to “vultures.” 

Then we found another image of a Mantis with prey and small flies on BugGuide where they are identified as Freeloader Flies in the genus Desmometopa and BugGuide states:  “Females are kleptoparasitic and are especially attracted to predatory insects or spiders feeding on honeybees.”

Freeloader Flies with California Mantis on Woody Plant

Letter 39 – Male California Mantis

Subject: Bug identification
Location: Petaluma, Ca 94952
February 4, 2017 8:23 am
I found this bug on a bush in my yard in Petaluma California on September 15, 2016. It’s about 2 inches long. It would be wonderful if you could identify it for me Thank you!!
Signature: Sharon Risedorph

Male California Mantis

Dear Sharon,
This is a native Preying Mantis in the genus
Stagmomantis, probably the California Mantis that is found in brown, yellow and green forms.  They are considered beneficial predators in the garden, though they will also eat pollinating insects.  Here is a BugGuide image for comparison.

Letter 40 – Male California Mantis attracted to Mount Washington porch light

Male Native Mantis
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
October 26, 2014
A true harbinger of autumn in our Mount Washington garden is the appearance of one or more California Mantids.  Male California Mantids are more often encountered at porch lights.  Female California Mantids may be less mobile as they do not have wings.

Male California Mantis
Male California Mantis

Letter 41 – Male California Mantis attracted to light in Mount Washington

Male California Mantis

September 8, 2012
Two nights ago, upon returning past 11 PM, there was a male California Mantis on the garage wall under the light.  We gently captured him and brought him to the front porch, warning him to beware of the very large female Orbweaver that weaves a night web across the front porch.  We have had to divert our normal paths through the yard to preserve her anchor lines.  This morning we photographed the male California Mantis on the window with relatively clear dorsal and ventral views of a living specimen.  The individual we photographed last fall arrived in a similar fashion in October.  We saw an immature possible female at the front porch recently and a nymph on the roses over a month ago.

Male California Mantis

 

Letter 42 – Male California Mantis on a Woody Plant

Subject:  Looking for love in Los Angeles
Geographic location of the bug:  Mount Washington
Date: 09/15/2019
Time: 02:02 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Dear Bugman,
I was visiting a dear friend in Mount Washington and spotted this male praying mantis perched on a woody plant.
It appears he is searching for a female.
How you want your letter signed:  Melanie on the Irish Chain

Male California Mantis

Dear Melanie on the Irish Chain,
We agree that this is a male Mantis and that he is likely patrolling for a mate.  This is a California Mantis, a native species in the genus
Stagmomantis. Last year Daniel documented the mating of a pair of California Mantids that ended with him becoming a sacrificial meal to help nourish the female who promptly bit off the head of her paramour.

Letter 43 – She’s a Man-Eater

Subject:  Mating California Mantids at our porch light
Geographic location of the bug:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, CA
Date: 09/28/2018
Time: 11:30 PM PDT
Daniel was up late sitting in the kitchen when a large Walnut Underwing caused him to go outside with the camera.  There has been a female California Mantid at the porch light for a few weeks now, and she has been getting fat eating moths and other insects that are attracted to the light. 

Well, seems she attracted a mate, and true to her expected behavior, she bit off his head to ensure their coupling would be successful.  The next morning, the corpse was gone.  Did she finish her meal as a post-coital snack? 

The female California Mantid living at the porch light last season was not so lucky.  Daniel is thinking of moving her to the plum trees where she will have numerous choices where to lay her oothecae.

Mating California Mantids

Update:  September 29, 2018
Daniel did move the Mantis to the plum trees with the hope she will lay her oothecae there.

 

Letter 44 – New Southern California Moth Species: Glyphodes onychinalis

New Moth in So. Cal.
Hi Daniel,
Although the mystery pyralid has now been identified, and may be beyond the scope of your website (we don’t need help identifying it), its story may be of interest to your viewers.
Mystery Moth Appears in Southern California: In early July, 2007, Don Sterba, a birder in Culver City, Los Angeles County, California, sent me a photograph of a mystery moth he had discovered in his yard, after failing to find any images of it on the Web.

Don doesn’t pretend to be an entomologist, but he was observant enough to notice that something he hadn’t seen before had suddenly become common in his neighborhood. Although I recognized the moth as a member of the family Pyralidae, subfamily Pyraustinae, I was unable to find anything that matched it in the extensive collection of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

Nor was I able to match it with any images in several foreign references books I consulted. The plot thickened. So I forwarded the photograph to Dr. M. Alma Solis, a pyralid specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, based at the Smithsonian Institution.

Dr. Solis suggested that I send some specimens to her for dissection and identification. As luck would have it, the annual meeting of The Lepidopterists’ Society was being held in Bakersfield, California, the next week, so I visited Don one morning to pick up the specimens he had collected, and collected a few more while I was there.

I pinned and labeled them, and took some to the Lep. Soc. meeting where I gave them to one of Dr. Solis’s colleagues to be hand-carried back to Washington. A week or two later Dr. Solis identified the moth as Glyphodes onychinalis, a moth apparently native to Australasia and perhaps elsewhere. Its larvae are known to feed on oleander (Nerium oleander; Apocynaceae), a Eurasian native widely cultivated as an ornamental in the southwest and southeast United States, and particularly common in southern California.

An earlier outbreak of this moth had been reported from oleander in Newport Beach, California (Orange Co.) in 2000. The moth apparently failed to become established there, because subsequent efforts to find it in the same locality were unsuccessful. The appearance of this moth in Culver City is, consequently, most likely a new introduction.

How it got here and how widespread it is remains a mystery. And only time will tell whether it becomes permanently established as a pest of oleander or related ornamentals, and whether our plant pest control agencies will consider it a serious enough pest to take any eradication or control action.
Julian P. Donahue
Assistant Curator Emeritus, Entomology
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
900 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90007-4057, U.S.A.

Wow Julian,
Thanks for the wonderful dramatic addition to our site.

Letter 45 – Ootheca of a California Mantis

Subject: pupa?
Location: san diego ca.
December 27, 2013 10:32 am
found this on Christmas morning attached to my outdoor umbrella! I’ve looked through countless photos and can’t find it. Can you help ID it. Thanks
Signature: don’t understand queastion

California Mantis Ootheca
California Mantis Ootheca

The signature is the name you would like used when we post images and questions.  This is the Ootheca or Egg Case of a Preying Mantis, and based on the similarity to this image from BugGuide, it is an Ootheca from the native California Mantis, Stagmomantis californica.

The ootheca that are sold by nurseries as organic means of controlling pest species in the garden are generally from non-native Preying Mantids that are larger and more aggressive than our native mantids.  While we applaud the good intentions of gardeners who want to use natural means for pest control, we fear that our native Mantids are being displaced and perhaps eaten by their non-native relatives. 

This Ootheca appears to have already hatched into approximately fifty tiny mantids.  Here is a photo from our archives of the hatching Ootheca a different species of Mantis.  We also recently photographed a nymph of a California Mantis in our own Mount Washington, Los Angeles garden. 

Letter 46 – Sunflower Fruit Fly and immature California Mantis on Cannabis

Subject:  Sunflower Fruit Fly and immature California Mantis on Cannabis
Geographic location of the bug:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
Date: 07/15/2021
Time: 09:39 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Dear Bugman,
As you know, we are having muggy weather in Los Angeles and the humidity seems to bring out more bugs.  My “girls” of 2021 are starting to show their stigmas and they are beginning to attract new insects.  I don’t have any identification requests for you today, but I wanted to submit a new photo of the pretty Fruit Fly you identified as Paracantha cultaris in 2019.

It is on a first generation plant (a genie) from a seed that I found on the Kernal Kush I grew last year.  The flies really like my Cannabis, and you assured me they will not harm my plants, and that they actually are associated with sunflowers which are always growing near the Cannabis.  I think it is sad that this pretty fly doesn’t have a common name and I would like to suggest Sunflower Fruit Fly.

I also eagerly await the appearance of immature California Mantids on my plants and I’m including an image of an inch long individual on my favorite strain Woodhead, and this is the fifth year I have grown plants descended from the original Woodhead I grew in 2017.  Once again, it is so nice to see you posting again.
How you want your letter signed:  Constant Gardener

Sunflower Fruit Fly

Dear Constant Gardener,
Thanks for your kind words.  It is curious that this distinctive fly does not have a common name and Sunflower Fruit Fly does seem very appropriate in light of BugGuide’s comment:  “breeds in
Helianthus annuus” which is identified on CalScape as simply Sunflower.  Also, thanks for being so conscious of native insects in your horticultural endeavors.

Immature California Mantid

Letter 47 – The Lost Image: California Mantis and Figeater together on Butterfly Bush

The Figeater and the California Mantis:  Drama on the Butterfly Bush
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
August 17, 2015, 6:30 PM
It has been a hot couple of days in Los Angeles, and our editorial staff has been staying indoors to beat the heat, and we have been reserving the late afternoon and twilight hours for doing yardwork. 

A Figeater was noisily circling the yard and it landed on a magenta Buddleia, so we moved in closer to see if it was eating nectar, and as its bulky weight caused the flower stalk to bob up and down, we spotted a stick moving and we couldn’t help but to wonder what a Walkingstick was doing on the plant. 

A closer inspection revealed an immature green California Mantis almost three inches long carefully scrutinizing the Figeater, trying to determine if it would be a good meal.  We knew immediately that the Mantis would not be able to capture the large, heavy beetle, but we thought it was photo worthy anyways, with the two pretty green insects on the magenta blossom, but alas, when we tried to download the images, the card was blank, mysteriously erased, possibly through a camera malfunction or perhaps a computer glitch. 

So while you won’t be seeing the image, we thought you might enjoy the account of the sighting.

Figeater (from our archives)
Figeater (from our archives)

Yesterday we trimmed the guajes trees because we didn’t want all the dried seed pods to drop to the ground and we found two immature California Mantids, just under two inches long, one green and one brown, living in the branches. 

We relocated them and we noticed that they had grown considerably larger than the little guy we took some images of last month

We have seen more little mantids this year than we ever remember seeing, so our Southern California drought is not negatively affecting the population in our garden.  After trimming the branches we placed them in the green bin with the lid open in the event any other Mantids were camouflaged among the leaves so that they can find their way to freedom.

Female California Mantis eats Honey Bee (from our archives)
Female California Mantis eats Honey Bee (from our archives)

Subject: Your lost image
Location: South Pasadena
August 17, 2015 10:55 pm
I saw your post about your lost image, and it reminded me of this picture I got in 2011. They seemed not to notice one another. It was a big rose.
Signature: Barbara

Figeater and California Mantis
Figeater and California Mantis

Dear Barbara,
Thanks so much for sending in your image to replace our own lost image.  You mentioned they did not seem to notice one another.  In our case, the Mantis appeared to be stalking the Figeater, but it never struck, perhaps sensing that the Figeater was too large. 

We have added your letter and image to the original posting we made rather than to make a unique posting.

Letter 48 – Three Male California Mantids visit WTB? on the same day

Subject:  Three Male California Mantids
Geographic Location of the Bug:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
Date:  September 16, 2016
Time:  10:38 AM EDT
Saturday morning, after posting identification requests from our readership, Daniel discovered three male California Mantids in various places in the yard.  Earlier in the season, several female California Mantids were observed over time. 

Daniel knows for certain there are at least three mature females in the garden now, and they are probably releasing pheromones as it is time to mate and lay eggs.  One could only hope that each female attracted her own suitor.

First Male California Mantis on the Hungarian wax pepper plant.

Male California Mantids can be distinguished from female California Mantids because males are smaller, thinner and have longer wings.  Unlike the wings of the males, the wings of the females do not reach the end of the abdomen.  Both male and female California Mantids can be brown or green.

Second male California Mantis on the screen door.
Third male California Mantis on the porch light.

Letter 49 – Two Male California Mantids visit our porch light

Subject:  Two Male California Mantids at the WTB? office
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, California
October 8, 2016 10:37 AM
We found so many immature California Mantids in our primrose patch this spring and summer after we found several oothecae while pruning last year, so we are thrilled to have gotten a visit from two adult winged males this morning.  This is not the first time they have been attracted to the porch light. Hopefully there are some female California Mantids lurking, well camouflaged, in our garden.

Male California Mantid (shot through window)
Male California Mantid (shot through window)
Male California Mantid
Male California Mantid
The other male California Mantid
The other male California Mantid

Letter 50 – Young California Mantis in Mount Washington

Preying Mantis Nymph
Location:  Mount Washington, Los Angeles, CA
August 1, 2012
Today we were trimming the rose bushes.  We don’t particularly like roses, but they have been there for 12 years and despite the sketchy attention they get, they seem to do well.  There are several creatures that love the roses, including the Green Lynx Spiders and the Skudder’s Bush Katydids, but today was a first for us. 

We spotted this immature Preying Mantis, most likely Stagmomantis californica, the California Mantis, trying to avoid us by scuttling under the leaves.  The little guy was only about an inch long.  We got the camera and managed to get a few mediocre photographs. 

We see one or two adult California Mantids each year, generally in the fall, but this nymph is a first for us.  There are some advantages to having a wild garden and not using pesticides.

California Mantis Nymph

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

26 thoughts on “California Mantis: All You Need to Know for a Fascinating Discovery”

  1. Sorry to disappoint, but it’s a male of European mantis (Mantis religiosa), an introduced species. You can see black spots at the base of its coxae, which is characteristic for this species.

    Reply
  2. Are they larger than the ones native to western pa. If so I found at my job and managed a picture. It must have been 5 inches long atleast.

    Reply
    • The California Mantis is not a large mantis. Your five inch long individual is most likely not a native species. The Chinese Mantis is an introduced species that has naturalized across much of North America and it is common in Pennsylvania.

      Reply
  3. I found a figeater beetle today on the sidewalk near newly trimmed oak trees/ Thanks for the photo cause I have no way to take a photo of it…brilliantly green irridescent on the underside and a beautiful emerald green on the top. He or she is dead…where it came from I don’t know..is it rare? what does it eat, sap? no flowers in this area I found it.

    Reply
  4. I was trying to use your sight to look up a mantid and all I got were pictures and stories of California mantises. The mantid in my yard had the front end of a mantis and the back looked like a wasp. It was about 3-5cm long.

    Reply
    • According to our records, we currently have 308 Mantis postings in that category, and the vast majority are NOT California Mantids. What you describe sounds like a Mantispid or Mantidfly.

      Reply
  5. In my area, mantises have built up a large population. This is likely because they are very sedentary, so they can live close together without encountering each other much.

    Also, they are surprisingly cryptic, so great numbers can exist and go unnoticed.

    Reply
    • We have dramatically increased the number of California Mantids in our garden by diligently watching trimmed twigs in the fall and searching for the oothecae. Now the egg cases get tied back on trees instead of getting pitched into the “green bin.”

      Reply
  6. In my area, mantises have built up a large population. This is likely because they are very sedentary, so they can live close together without encountering each other much.

    Also, they are surprisingly cryptic, so great numbers can exist and go unnoticed.

    Reply
    • We realize that, and we were really just coping with the grief of our own loss. That Mantis lived on our porch light for nearly a month. Seeing as Mantids are a group of insects known to reproduce parthenogenically, we were merely expressing our hopes.

      Reply
  7. Been in California all my life (60 yrs). I have never seen a praying mantis in a backyard. Today one showed up in my driveway. It’s light green. I live practically on top of Los Angeles International Airport. What’s it doing here? Should it be here? Is it an invasive species to this area?

    Reply
  8. I just woke up & its 5:20am @ my making a meal for breakfast. I was surprised as a brilliant pretty green bug buzzed like electricity noise or like a bumble bee so fast around my stove & lit on top my breakfast of green beans, mash potatoes , a small amount of sautéed onion
    Gr. Bell pepper with hint of chicken as I was about to open cranberry sauce .
    I wondered which of the foods it was attracted to . But I carefully picked him/her up & set it free outside . I do not kill bugs but set them free outdoors . I had a friendship with a
    Middle size preying mantis right outside which lived in my Mexican palm tree. a few months ago before the real cold weather started. But the day it disappeared I was afraid for it because there was a new much bigger preying mantis & lighter color approaching if a few yards away & next day both were gone. Wondered if the bigger one mated or could have killed the other ?

    Reply
  9. I send greetings to Constant Gardener.
    Thank you. We rejoice in the humidity.
    After 3 years of no summer rain, this year it is off to a good start.
    I am especially pleased that the flash flood hit the city offices.
    They won’t change their ways,they will be even worse. They say that it is millions of dollars damage.
    We say don’t build in a wash.

    Reply
  10. We have enjoyed watching a native Stagmomantis californica grow in our garden. We would occasionally feed her, but she enjoyed hunting spiders more than anything. She remained in the same general area until a few days after mating, when she moved to the rosemary bush and laid her eggs. We haven’t seen her since, and assumed she died.

    We carefully clipped the branch where she left the Ootheca, and put it in an oversized mason jar with a damp paper towel. When the little ones hatch we plan on reintroducing most of them to the rosemary bush, but some we’ll grow to a larger size and plan to move them to other parts of Southern California. We would have left it alone, but where she laid it is NOT going to survive the gardeners and their trimmers.

    People may not realize this, but the California Mantis has a taste for Black Widows. This alone should be reason enough to want to protect the species.

    Reply

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