Carolina Mantis Life Cycle: Unveiling the Fascinating Stages

The Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis carolina) is an intriguing insect found in the Southeastern United States.

Known for their distinctive appearance and infamous predatory behavior, they play a vital role in controlling insect populations in their natural habitats.

Carolina mantises undergo a unique life cycle characterized by three stages: egg, nymph, and adult. They hatch in springtime after spending the winter inside an egg case called an ootheca.

Carolina Mantis Life Cycle

As they grow, they undergo multiple molts, eventually reaching adulthood, where they display their full range of color variations and size, usually around 2.5 inches long.

This fascinating lifecycle not only captivates naturalists, but also highlights the key ecological roles these insects play.

Carolina Mantis Overview

Species and Distribution

The Carolina Mantis (Stagmomantis carolina) is an insect belonging to the family Mantidae. This mantis species can be found across the United States, Mexico, and  as far south as Brazil in South America

It is particularly common in North and South Carolina, with South Carolina designating it as their state insect.

Carolina mantis characteristics:

  • Length: Around 2.5 inches
  • Color: Highly variable, can be gray, green, brown, or combinations with spots and bands

Native Habitat

The Carolina mantis thrives in a variety of native habitats, including gardens, meadows, and woodland edges.

They are predators of other insects, helping to keep pest populations under control in their environment.

The Carolina mantis can be distinguished by its wings, which only extend three-quarters of the way down the abdomen in mature females.

Here are some other characteristics which can help distinguish Carolina Mantis vs European Mantis:

FeatureCarolina MantisEuropean Mantis
SizeSmallest (2 – 2.5 inches)Medium (~3 inches)
ColorGreen or mottled gray/brownMore commonly green
Foreleg MarkingsNo specific markingsBlack-ringed, white “bull’s eye” spot

Carolina Mantis Life Cycle

Egg Stage

The life cycle of the Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis carolina) begins with the egg stage. Female mantids lay a protective case called an ootheca during the winter.

Mantises hatch in springtime after spending the winter inside the ootheca

The ootheca contains multiple eggs and serves to protect them from predators and harsh weather.

Mantis Ootheca

Nymphs and Molting

After hatching, the young Carolina mantis goes through the nymph stage.

Nymphs resemble smaller, wingless adults and undergo several molts as they grow.

Molting involves shedding their exoskeleton to allow for growth and development.

  • Nymphs
    • Resemble small, wingless adults
    • Undergo molting
  • Molting
    • Shedding of exoskeleton
    • Allows for growth and development

Adulthood and Reproduction

Upon reaching adulthood, Carolina mantids develop wings, with males having longer wings than females for better flight abilities.

Adult males and females mate, but Carolina mantis species sometimes exhibit sexual cannibalism, where the female consumes the male during or after mating.

The entire life cycle of the Carolina mantis lasts about a year, with most of their time spent consuming insects to grow and develop.

Physical Characteristics and Behavior

Size and Appearance

The Carolina mantid measures approximately 2.5 inches in length.

Adult females are typically 47 to 60 millimeters (2-2.5 inches) in length, while adult males are usually about 54 millimeters (2.2 inches) in length.

Female Carolina Mantis

They come in various colors, such as:

  • Gray with spots
  • Green
  • Green with spots or bands
  • Brown
  • Brown with spots or bands

The Carolina mantis can adjust its color over each molt until it reaches adulthood to match its environment.

Their front legs are typically folded in front of them, while their triangular head is equipped with compound eyes.

Feeding and Predation

Carolina mantids are ambush predators. Examples of their prey include:

  • Butterflies
  • Moths
  • Crickets
  • Grasshoppers
  • Houseflies
  • Cockroaches

They use their specialized front legs to catch and hold their prey2. In turn, they may fall prey to birds and other larger predators.

Camouflage and Defense

Carolina mantids rely on their camouflage coloration for defense.

Their varying colors allow them to blend with their surroundings, making it difficult for predators to spot them.

This camouflage also aids in their ambush predation tactics.

Comparison Table: Carolina Mantis vs. Other Mantids

FeatureCarolina MantisOther Mantids
Size2 – 2.5 inchesVaries
ColorsVariousVarious
DefenseCamouflageCamouflage

Housing and Care

Environmental Requirements

Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis carolina) thrive in a controlled environment, such as a pet owner’s house.

Female California Mantis

They prefer a temperature range of 75-80°F and 60%-70% humidity. An enclosure mimicking their natural habitat should include:

  • Adequate ventilation
  • Branches or stems for climbing
  • Foliage for camouflage
  • Substrate, such as peat moss or coconut fiber

Size comparison of popular mantis enclosures:

Enclosure TypeHeightWidthDepth
Terrarium12″12″12″
Net Cages12″8″8″

Diet and Feeding

Feed your Carolina mantis a balanced diet of small insects, such as:

  • Fruit flies (for young nymphs)
  • Moths
  • Small crickets

Offer food every other day for adult mantids and daily for nymphs.

Handling and Management

Carolina mantis are delicate pets and should be handled with care. Keep in mind these simple rules:

  1. Avoid handling them too often, as they are easily stressed.
  2. Treat them gently; avoid sudden movements.
  3. Supervise children interacting with the mantis.

Enjoy the captivating beauty of your Carolina mantis by observing its natural behaviors and ensuring a well-maintained environment. Your pet will appreciate your attentive care!

Carolina Mantis

Role in Nature and Relationships

Biological Control

Carolina mantis plays a significant role in garden and habitat environments as a natural form of biological control.

This predator feeds on a variety of insects, helping to maintain a balance in the ecosystem.

The oothecae of the Carolina mantis can be purchased in garden supply centers for biological control.

However, care should be taken to ensure they are not of the invasive Chinese mantis.

Evolution and Classification

Carolina mantis belongs to the order Mantodea, within the family Mantidae, and it is a member of the larger class of arthropods.

While some may confuse them with praying mantis, the Carolina mantis is a distinct species.

In evolutionary terms, mantids are believed to have shared a common ancestor with Orthoptera—such as grasshoppers and crickets.

Key differences between Carolina mantis and praying mantis:

Carolina MantisPraying Mantis
Approximately 2.5 inches longLarger in size
Native to North AmericaNative to various locations around the world

Taxonomy and Synonyms

The Carolina mantis is designated as the state insect of South Carolina, highlighting its status as a symbol of the natural world in this region.

In taxonomy, it is recognized by several synonyms, including Stagmomantis americana, Stagmomantis conspersa, and others.

However, it has no known synonyms, making its classification and identification relatively straightforward for entomologists and amateur naturalists alike.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis carolina) is a captivating native insect, playing a pivotal role in controlling pest populations across the Southeastern United States, Mexico, and South America.

With its distinctive appearance, adaptive camouflage, and unique life cycle from protective ootheca to predatory adult, this mantis continues to intrigue both naturalists and enthusiasts.

Its significance in biological control and its status as South Carolina’s state insect underscore its integral role in our ecosystems and its enduring fascination.

Reader Emails

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

Letter 1 – Carolina Mantis Nymph, we believe

Small Purple and Green Mantis Nymph in Illinois.
August 29, 2009
I found what seems like it may be an unusual mantis in my front yard. It seems like it is very small for this late in the season, and surprisingly purple.
The wing buds are fairly prominent, does that mean that this is the next to last instar?

Carolina Mantis
immature Carolina Mantis

It is late August in Southern Illinois, just across the river from St. Louis.
I know nymph identification is tricky, but I thought I’d see if anybody had any thoughts, and thought you might like the pictures.
Bert in Illinois
Southern Illinois

Immature Carolina Mantis
Immature Carolina Mantis

Hi Bert,
We believe your mantis is a Carolina Mantis nymph.  There is a very close image that was posted to BugGuide this week from Pennsylvania.  Perhaps one of our readers can confirm or deny.

Immature Carolina Mantis

Letter 2 – Female Carolina Mantis

Black and tan Praying Mantis from southwest Texas
Until yesterday, I didn’t even know the Praying Mantis had any other color than green. We were on a hilltop 15 miles north of Brackettville, Tx which is in the southwest part of the state and I saw this little guy.

His colors made me think of desert camo. Then I find your site and see all the many many varieties of Praying Mantis and I’m amazed! I didn’t see my guy on your site, although the Carolina Mantid on your page was similar in coloring. What’s that bug?
Genie Robinson
Brackettville, TX

Hi Genie,
Based on BugGuide, we believe this is a female Carolina Mantis, Stagmomantis carolina. We don’t believe your specimen is fully mature due to the small size of her wings.

The female Carolina Mantis does not have fully developed, functional wings, but mature specimens have more noticeable wings than are represented in your photograph.

Letter 3 – Female Carolina Mantis

Female Carolina Mantis
Female Carolina Mantis

Subject: Mantis?
Location: Tree in Maryland
October 12, 2014 4:47 pm
I was taking my students outside and we saw this “bug” on a tree. Is it a type of Mantis?
Signature: Mr. Burk

Dear Mr. Burk,
You are correct that this is a Mantis.  We believe it is a female Carolina Mantis based on its resemblence to this individual posted to BugGuide.

Letter 4 – Female Carolina Mantis

Subject:  Praying Mantis
Geographic location of the bug:  south eastern IL
August 27, 2017 9:36 AM
Your letter to the bugman:  I am wondering what species of mantis this is.
How you want your letter signed:  Thank you

Female Carolina Mantis

This looks to us like a female Carolina Mantis, Stagmomantis carolina, when compared to this BugGuide image.  The wings of the female fall short of the tip of the abdomen. 

Despite its name, the Carolina Mantis has a range that extends over much of the eastern U.S., as BugGuide date indicates.  The native Carolina Mantis is much smaller than Mantid species that have been introduced, and they often fall prey to larger Chinese Mantids and European Mantids.

Female California Mantis

Letter 5 – Female Carolina Mantis

Subject:  Looks like a preying mantis but it’s colorful?
Geographic location of the bug:  Bucks county, PA
Date: 09/28/2018
Time: 11:08 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I saw this bug on my wood door frame. It was highly camouflaged. When I looked back it had all these colors. I couldn’t find one similar to it online and I’m so curious!
How you want your letter signed:  Shannon G

Female Carolina Mantis

Dear Shannon,
Based on the markings on the wings, we strongly suspect that this is a female Carolina Mantis,
Stagmomantis carolina, which is pictured on BugGuide

Your image with her wings displayed are a wonderful addition, and we verified with this BugGuide image that the colorful flight wings she has are consistent with the color and markings for the species. 

According to BugGuide:  “Mantids are most commonly seen in late summer and early fall. August-frost (eastern North Carolina).”

Female California Mantis

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.

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