Currently viewing the category: "Preying Mantis"
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Hi, Bugman.
Is it true that a male praying mantis must have his head bitten off by the female he is mating with, in order to ejaculate? If so, that would be quite a decision to make, it seems to me! For the male, that is. And is this uncommon in the insect world? What might be the reason for this to be the case with the praying mantis?
M. Mattison
Oslo, Norway
(the praying mantis is referred to as a "kneeler" in Norway)

Hi Mark,
While it is not necessary for the male preying mantis to be beheaded in order to consumate the mating ritual, the female mantis will occasionally bite off her mate’s head. Much like a chicken with its head cut off, the male mantis will continue to perform actions, in this case, continuing the mating procedure. The male mantis doesn’t really make a decision in this matter. He is a slave to his hormones. It is fair to call this behavior uncommon in the insect world, though many female spiders, including the black widow, also devour their mate, which gets to the main reason this occurs. The female requires a considerable amount of nutrition to produce strong eggs, and to survive to protect them as well. The sacrifice of the male of the species helps to ensure that a healthy future generation gets off to a good start. It is for the good of the species, not the survival of the individual. "Kneeler" is an interesting local name. I wonder what its origin is. Here are some photos I love. They are steps 4 and 5 in the mating of the Preying Mantis shot by Catherine Chalmers for her book Food Chain: Encounters Between Mates, Predators, and Prey published by Aperture.

Thanks a lot for your explanation. And what is the correct spelling? "Preying" or "praying?" Both of them make sense. As for the reason why they’re called "kneeles" in Norwegian, I will try to find out. Thanks again.
Mark Mattison

Both spellings are correct, depending upon the author. I prefer to spotlight the hunting versus the religious connotation.

I now believe that the Norwegian name "kneeler" is from the same reason we say "praying" mantis: you kneel when you pray. At least if you accept the "praying" spelling. At least it makes sense. Why didn’t I think of that

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Mr. bugman,
I am 11 y.o. i had a praying mantis, and fed him many bugs, mostly crickets and butterflys. I put in a katydid (my dad thinks) with a stinger like thing in his cage. When I checked on him, he was dead and his head was eaten off by this katydid thing half his size. What was it, I still have it? I thought they only ate plants. Can you help me with this question. My dad and I cant find too much out on the web, but we ran into this site and thought we would try you.
Cool Site!
Zack E, and dad

Dear Zack,
The stinger you describe was the ovipositor of the female katydid. They are not predatory, and I have not heard of a situation of a katydid killing a mantis. I can tell you that katydids are not the typical food source for mantids. Normally they eat bees, butterflies, skippers, flower flies and other small flying insects. Your murder is a mystery to me and perhaps needs some additional crime scene investigation. Is it possible that ants got to the already dead mantis and devoured the head?

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Dear WTB,
Early in the week we tore down our arbor and fence and discovered this cocoon attached to a fence post behind the foliage. We live near Modesto, CA in the central valley. We have been unable to identify what will come out of this cocoon once the insect immerges – can you help? It is approx. 1 inch long and has scales like a snake. The exterior is very "tough". It has maroon striped markings on each side with a cream color filling out the remaining exterior. My photos are a bit fuzzy – couldn’t get my digital to focus for a closer shot. Any assistance you can provide would be appreciated! My children and I are perplexed.
Thank you,
Sheri McNeilly

Hi Sheri,
I would like to do more research before giving you a definite answer, but it looks more like an egg case than a cocoon. It might be a preying mantis egg case known as an Ootheca. I will get back to you.

Thank you – as you can see, I’m not up on bug terminology. A mantis would be wonderful.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Dear Mr. Bugman,
A couple years ago when I was a courier in Philadelphia I found a Praying Mantis in an office building elevator, so I took her outside and let her go. Then a couple days later I found another one in a different building’s elevator ! This has been keeping me awake nights ever since. Should I worry about some ancient chinese curse or expect some munificent blessing ?
Colin Barclay

We have lost the original reply to Colin’s letter, but we assured him that he would fall victim to no curse, and helping the poor Mantids could only result in blessings.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

what is the family name for preying mantis’s (genus – i guess) this will help me win an argument!

Dear Tristian,
Let me settle your etymological query before addressing your entomological one. Thanks to Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), one of the most famous biologists that ever lived. we use a two name system to name all biological species. The first name, which is capitalized, is the genus name. The species name, which follows, is all lower case. There are many species of preying (praying) mantid (mantis), belonging to several families, but all belong to the animal Kingdom, Phyllum Arthropoda, Class Insecta, Subclass Pterygota, Infraclass Neoptera, and Order Mantodea. All American species belong to the family Mantidae. There are various genus and species. Some native species include the California Mantid (Stagmomantis californica) and the Minor Ground Mantid (Litaneutria minor). Species introduced from Asia include Tenodera or Paratenodera sinensis and Mantis religiosa.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination