Chinese Mantis: All You Need to Know for a Fascinating Encounter

The Chinese mantis, Tenodera sinensis, is a fascinating insect that has gained popularity due to its unique appearance and intriguing predatory habits. Originating in Asia, it is now commonly found across the eastern United States, where it is often mistaken for its native cousin, the Carolina mantis. These creatures are slender, with body lengths that range from 3 inches (males) to 4 3/8 inches (females), and can be brown or green in color with intricate patterns and a distinctive triangular head shape.

Enthusiastically hunting a variety of insects like flies, moths, and even other mantises, the Chinese mantis plays a role in controlling certain pest populations. Its captivating style of capturing prey with its adapted forelegs and the characteristic way it holds them in a “praying” position gives it a special appeal to observers. In fact, the Chinese mantis has been commercially sold for pest management purposes, despite having limited value in this regard.

While there are many interesting aspects of Chinese mantises to explore, it’s important to note that they can be invasive in non-native areas. This means that they can potentially outcompete and prey upon native mantid species, reducing their overall numbers. Despite this, the Chinese mantis remains a popular and compelling subject for nature enthusiasts, and studying its behavior and ecology can offer valuable insights into the world of insects.

Chinese Mantis Overview

Origin and History

The Chinese Mantis (Tenodera sinensis) is an insect belonging to the Mantodea order. It’s considered a non-native praying mantis species, which has been commercially sold for pest management.

Physical Features

  • Size: Males are approximately 3 inches, while females can reach up to 4⅜ inches in length.
  • Color: Chinese mantises can appear in shades of brown or green, often with a green line running down the side of their forewings.
  • Head: They have a distinctive triangular head that can swivel to track prey.

The unique features of the Chinese Mantis, compared to the native Carolina Mantis, are highlighted below:

Feature Chinese Mantis Carolina Mantis
Size Up to 5 inches Up to 2½ inches
Wings in Adults Fully extend down body ¾ down the abdomen (females)
Color Pale green to tan Pale green, tan, or gray

Habitat and Distribution

The Chinese mantis (Tenodera sinensis) originates from Asia, specifically China, Taiwan, and Japan. However, it has spread to other parts of the world, including the United States, where it is considered a non-native species. It is often found in various habitats ranging from gardens to meadows, wooded areas, and grasslands.

In the United States, Chinese mantises primarily inhabit the eastern part of the country. They coexist with other mantis species, such as the native Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis carolina). There are some differences between the two species:

Feature Chinese Mantis Carolina Mantis
Size Up to 5 inches Up to 2.5 inches
Color Pale green to tan Pale green to gray

Chinese mantises are opportunistic predators and are known for their adaptability. They can survive in a variety of environments as long as there are adequate resources, such as food and shelter. Some typical features of the Chinese mantis include:

  • Slender body, about 3 inches (males) to 4 3/8 inches (females) long
  • Triangular head with prominent eyes
  • Praying posture with forelegs adapted for grasping prey

Their introduction to the United States has pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Can help control certain pest populations
  • Fascinating creatures for backyard observers

Cons:

  • May outcompete native mantis species for resources
  • Limited value in pest management practices

In summary, the Chinese mantis has made its way into the United States and comfortably settled in various habitats across the east. While they share some similarities with the native Carolina mantis, there are key differences in size and color. Their impact on the ecosystem has both positive and negative aspects.

Behavior and Diet

Feeding Habits

The Chinese Mantis is a carnivorous insect that primarily feeds on other insects. Some common prey items include:

  • Spiders
  • Crickets
  • Grasshoppers
  • Katydids

These predators are known for their patience, as they wait for their prey to come within reach before striking with their specialized forelegs.

Cannibalistic Tendencies

Chinese Mantises are known for their cannibalistic tendencies, especially among females. During mating, the female might eat the male as a source of nutrition. This behavior is more likely to occur when food is scarce.

In general, the Chinese Mantis diet includes a variety of insects and other small prey, making them efficient predators. However, it should be noted that they occasionally consume vertebrates, such as hummingbirds, in rare cases.

Caring for the Chinese Mantis as a Pet

Housing and Enclosure

  • Enclosure size: at least 3 times the mantis’ length in height and width
  • Substrate: paper towels or coconut fiber
  • Live plants: optional, but provide natural hiding spots

The Chinese Mantis, Tenodera sinensis, can make a fascinating pet. To create a comfortable home, use a well-ventilated, secure enclosure, ideally with a screen or mesh top. Make sure the enclosure is spacious enough to allow the mantis to move and molt comfortably, with a minimum size of three times its body length in height and width. The enclosure should contain substrate, like paper towels or coconut fiber, and may include live plants for a more natural environment and hiding spots.

Temperature and Humidity

  • Temperature: 70°F – 75°F (21°C – 24°C)
  • Humidity: 50% – 60%

Maintain the enclosure’s temperature between 70°F and 75°F, which is the optimal range for Chinese mantis. Keep humidity levels around 50% to 60%, as proper humidity helps facilitate molting and general health. Temperature and humidity can be regulated with heating elements and misting, if necessary.

Feeding Your Mantis

  • Common prey: fruit flies, crickets, and mealworms
  • Frequency: every 2-3 days

Feed your mantis a diet consisting mainly of live insects. Suitable options include fruit flies for young mantids and crickets or mealworms for adults. Provide food every 2 to 3 days, adjusting the frequency and portion size based on their appetite and growth.

Water and Hydration

  • Method: misting the enclosure
  • Frequency: every 1-2 days

To keep your pet hydrated, mist the enclosure every 1 to 2 days, ensuring that there are water droplets for them to drink from. Be careful not to over-mist, as excessive humidity can harm your mantis. Proper hydration is crucial for their overall health, including successful molting.

Breeding and Lifecycle

Mating and Reproduction

Chinese mantises are known for their unique mating process. Adult males and females engage in courtship rituals before mating, which may involve the transfer of nuptial gifts from males to females in the form of food. However, the process is also known for sexual cannibalism, where the female consumes the male during or after copulation.

Comparison Table

Feature Chinese mantis Carolina mantis
Mating Ritual Mutual courtship, possible nuptial gift exchange Courtship needed
Sexual Cannibalism Likely, may aid in reproduction Less common, usually occurs only in stressed conditions

Eggs and Nymph Development

After mating, the female Chinese mantis produces an egg case, called an ootheca. This ootheca consists of a frothy protective covering, which dries and hardens, protecting the eggs inside from environmental conditions and predators.

  • Environment: Chinese mantises can adapt to a variety of environments, including gardens, fields, and meadows.
  • Egg cases: A single ootheca can contain around 200 eggs.
  • Nymphs: Upon hatching, nymphs resemble miniature versions of adult mantises, though they lack wings.
  • Development: Nymphs undergo a series of molts, shedding their exoskeletons as they grow and develop into adult mantises.

Captive breeding of Chinese mantises can help control pest populations, as they are voracious predators. However, it is essential to provide a suitable environment for their growth and development. Some potential issues when breeding Chinese mantises in captivity include the presence of mites and providing proper nutrition for nymphs.

Comparison with Other Mantis Species

European Mantis

The European mantis, also known as Mantis religiosa, is a different species from the Chinese mantis. Here’s how they differ:

  • Size: European mantises are smaller, averaging 2-3 inches in length, while Chinese mantises can reach up to 5 inches.
  • Color: European mantises can be green or brown, while Chinese mantises are typically tan with a green line running down their sides.

Characteristics

  • European mantises have a distinctive “bullseye” marking under their forelegs.
  • They can adapt to various habitats.

Carolina Mantis

Another species to compare is the Carolina mantis. Here’s how it contrasts with the Chinese mantis:

  • Size: Carolina mantises are smaller, with a length of around 2 to 2.5 inches, while Chinese mantises can reach up to 5 inches.
  • Color: Carolina mantises can be brown or green, and are well-camouflaged, while Chinese mantises are usually tan with a green line down their sides.

Characteristics

  • Carolina mantises have a stockier build compared to the slender Chinese mantises.
  • They are native to the eastern United States, whereas Chinese mantises are non-native.

Comparison Table

Feature Chinese Mantis European Mantis Carolina Mantis
Size 3-5 inches 2-3 inches 2-2.5 inches
Color Tan, with green line Green or brown Brown or green
Native Region Asia Europe, Africa, Asia Eastern United States

In summary, Chinese mantises can be differentiated from European and Carolina mantises by their size and coloration. While all three species share similarities, such as their triangular head and raptorial front legs, these distinctions can help you accurately identify each species in the wild.

Challenges and Considerations

Chinese mantises are well-known for their unique appearance and fascinating predatory behavior. However, there are challenges and considerations to keep in mind when it comes to their diet, mating, and care.

Chinese mantises are primarily carnivorous, feeding on various invertebrates. Some common prey items include:

  • Flies
  • Moths
  • Crickets
  • Grasshoppers

Their hunting and climbing abilities allow them to catch prey in a swift, efficient manner. Using their powerful forelegs equipped with sharp hooks, they grab and hold onto prey with precision, often employing their mouth and jaw-like structures, known as maxillae and mandibles, to eat their catch.

Despite their invertebrate diet, Chinese mantises do not solely feed on small insects. They have been observed eating reptiles and amphibians on occasion, showcasing their diverse range of prey.

While their efficient predatory behavior is impressive, a downside is that Chinese mantises are not discriminative predators. This means they can consume beneficial insects, such as bees and butterflies, which might negatively impact these essential pollinators.

Mating season for the Chinese mantis begins in early fall. Male and female mantises engage in a unique courtship behavior, involving pheromone exchange and complex movements. After mating, the female produces a frothy mixture known as ootheca, which hardens into a protective casing for the eggs. However, the female may also eat the male during or after mating, which is a consideration for those looking to breed these insects.

When it comes to their appearance, Chinese mantises exhibit variety in their coloration. Most commonly, they are tan with a green stripe down their side. However, some may display shades of yellow, brown, or green. Additionally, young nymphs may possess a more vibrant green hue.

Providing proper care can be challenging for those who wish to keep Chinese mantises as pets. Ensuring they are housed in an appropriate enclosure with sufficient space, temperature, and humidity control is essential. Providing a safe, secure environment with suitable climbing structures is crucial for their well-being.

In summary, understanding and addressing the challenges and considerations related to Chinese mantises’ diet, mating, and care are important factors in appreciating these captivating creatures. As a result, they can serve as an intriguing subject of study for entomologists or an exotic, captivating pet for enthusiasts.

Reader Emails

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

Letter 1 – Chinese Mantis

 

Praying Mantis
January 25, 2010
I looked everywhere for one of these mantis and I finally found one, he just showed up on my Grandmother’s porch my sister started screaming when she found him because she knew how long I’d been looking for one. I can’t tell if it’s a male or female and if it’s a chinese or European mantis, can you identify him?
to derek
Shamokin Pennsylvania

Chinese Mantis

Hi Derek,
January is a most unusual time to find a Preying Mantis on the front porch and we would have thought that any mantises would have been killed by the frost or snow.  Your letter didn’t indicate, but we suspect you captured this Chinese Mantis in the autumn, and have been raising it indoors, in which case the life expectancy will be extended.  We believe this is a female Chinese Mantis, Tenodera aridifolia sinensis, though we are not certain.  Females are generally larger than males.  According to BugGuide, the Chinese Mantis can be identified are “Tan to pale green. Forewings tan with green along front margin. Compund eyes chocolate-brown at sunset, pale tan soon after sunrise and during the day.

I caught her about the start of December, thanks for the info, I’m
planning on purchasing some in the summer, I let her go because I couldn’t
get  much to feed it, but they are very interesting  to watch I was pretty
excited when i saw her on your site, Thanks gain for your help. From Derek

Hi again Derek,
Should you ever decide to try to keep a Preying Mantis over the winter months when wild insects are scarce, you can purchase crickets from most pet stores since crickets are commonly fed to lizards and other pets.

I’ll remember that when I get one in spring, I wish I’d known that before
I set the other loose, thanks a lot I’ll be sure to take better  care of
the next one. Thanks, From Derek

Letter 2 – Chinese Mantis

 

Subject: Praying Mantis Lifespan/Habitat/Laws
Location: Ashburn/Leesburg, Virginia – Willowsford Farm
December 7, 2012 3:03 pm
Hi there. Love your site!
Lots of friends and farm folks in the Maryland/Virginia region reported seeing more Praying Mantises during the 2012 growing season than in recent years – which sparked conversations about how long they can live and whether or not it is illegal to kill one. (Explored in one of our local blog posts after a mantis was carefully escorted from the Washington National’s field during a baseball game: http://compost2themoon.com/?p=2741 )
Wondering if you have any insight on either of those topics and/or ideas about why we all saw so many this year. And if you happen to have any suggestions about monitoring their egg sacks, that’d be great too. We discovered a couple on wooden tomato/pepper stakes in the field and set them aside in the barn. Are they better off outdoors in the elements?
Attaching a few of my favorite pictures of them from 2012 too.
Thanks and looking forward to using this site more!
Signature: Farmer Deb

Chinese Mantis

Hi Farmer Deb,
Just like other insects, and all other animals for that matter, when conditions including the weather and food supply are favorable, Mantis populations may spike.  They do not stay constant from year to year and this may have been an exceptional year for Mantids in your area.  Additionally, this is a Chinese Mantis, an introduced species.  According to BugGuide:  “Introduced as pest control and sold for that purpose. However Chinese mantis also eat the smaller native mantids. This has led to declines in population numbers of the native mantis species in some areas, but none of them are listed as threatened at this time.”  Since the ootheca of the Chinese Mantis are sold to control other insects and they are especially popular with organic gardeners, the populations of the Chinese Mantids gets human assistance which is not provided for native species which are not as economically viable as a means of biological control.  With regards to your specific questions, the life span of a Mantis is generally a single season, though a female may live longer in captivity where weather conditions do not have the same effect.  The ootheca are better left outdoors so that the indoor warmth does not cause the young to emerge too early.  We are not aware of any law protecting Mantids, though some local jurisdictions might have such laws.

Thanks so much for the response! I moved the ootheca outdoors and look forward to seeing which kind of mantids emerge in the spring (although I guess they will all be quite tiny and difficult to identify then). Maybe next fall I will see if one of the adults wants to live in captivity through the winter like that one on your website!
WR,
Deb

Letter 3 – Chinese Mantis

 

Subject:Long bug
Geographic location of the bug:  Great lakes
Date: 10/18/2017
Time: 05:47 PM EDT
I saw this bug on my step. It was being attacked by bees that have a nest under my siding.
How you want your letter signed:  Thank you.

Chinese Mantis

This is a Chinese Mantis which is described on BugGuide as being:  “Tan to pale green. Vertically striped face. Forewings tan with green along front margin.”  BugGuide also notes:  “Widely distributed in the U.S. due to the availability of commercially purchased egg-cases.”  We strongly suspect you are mistaked that:  “It was being attacked by bees that have a nest under my siding.”  It is much more likely that its attackers were Yellowjackets or Hornets.

Thank you Daniel for getting back to me. What a great and interesting website. Best of luck to you. Once again Thanks for the information. Doug Oyler Erie PA

Letter 4 – Chinese Mantis is house pet

 

Subject: Tenodera sinensis (Chinese Mantis)
Location: Newtown Square, PA
November 19, 2012 6:25 pm
Hello Daniel,
You do terrific work on the site! Thanks you. Not sure if you post already-identified insects. This is Nikki, a 7 month old Tenodera sinensis. She’s a house pet. This macro image shows Nikki’s femoral brushes (left raptor leg)used to groom face and eyes.
Signature: Digger

Portrait of Nikki

Hi Digger,
Your portraits of Nikki are quite stunning.  Thank you for sending them. 

Chinese Mantis

 

Letter 5 – Male Chinese Mantis

 

Subject:  what is this bug
Geographic location of the bug:  chicagoland – suburban area
Date: 08/30/2017
Time: 08:15 AM EDT
about 5″ long. looked to be able to fly.
How you want your letter signed:  jim

Male Chinese Mantis

Hi Jim,
This looks to us like a male Chinese Mantis, a species now naturalized in many parts of North America.

Letter 6 – Male Chinese Mantis in Northeast Ohio

 

Subject:  Mature and Immature Chinese Mantis
Geographic location of the bug:  Campbell, Ohio
Date: 07/27/2021
Time: 03:47 PM EDT
Gentle Readers,
While working in the garden last Friday, Daniel was surprised to see a Mantid fly from one bed of shrubs to the large thistle that is daily visited by butterflies and goldfinches.  He had trouble locating the well camouflaged male Chinese Mantis.

Male Chinese Mantis

Daniel recalled the immature green and brown Mantids he found in the bed of shrubs in late July while weeding invasive thistles, and he suspects this immature Brown Mantis grew into the male that flew last Friday.

Immature Chinese Mantis

 

Reader Emails

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

Letter 1 – Chinese Mantis

 

Praying Mantis
January 25, 2010
I looked everywhere for one of these mantis and I finally found one, he just showed up on my Grandmother’s porch my sister started screaming when she found him because she knew how long I’d been looking for one. I can’t tell if it’s a male or female and if it’s a chinese or European mantis, can you identify him?
to derek
Shamokin Pennsylvania

Chinese Mantis

Hi Derek,
January is a most unusual time to find a Preying Mantis on the front porch and we would have thought that any mantises would have been killed by the frost or snow.  Your letter didn’t indicate, but we suspect you captured this Chinese Mantis in the autumn, and have been raising it indoors, in which case the life expectancy will be extended.  We believe this is a female Chinese Mantis, Tenodera aridifolia sinensis, though we are not certain.  Females are generally larger than males.  According to BugGuide, the Chinese Mantis can be identified are “Tan to pale green. Forewings tan with green along front margin. Compund eyes chocolate-brown at sunset, pale tan soon after sunrise and during the day.

I caught her about the start of December, thanks for the info, I’m
planning on purchasing some in the summer, I let her go because I couldn’t
get  much to feed it, but they are very interesting  to watch I was pretty
excited when i saw her on your site, Thanks gain for your help. From Derek

Hi again Derek,
Should you ever decide to try to keep a Preying Mantis over the winter months when wild insects are scarce, you can purchase crickets from most pet stores since crickets are commonly fed to lizards and other pets.

I’ll remember that when I get one in spring, I wish I’d known that before
I set the other loose, thanks a lot I’ll be sure to take better  care of
the next one. Thanks, From Derek

Letter 2 – Chinese Mantis

 

Subject: Praying Mantis Lifespan/Habitat/Laws
Location: Ashburn/Leesburg, Virginia – Willowsford Farm
December 7, 2012 3:03 pm
Hi there. Love your site!
Lots of friends and farm folks in the Maryland/Virginia region reported seeing more Praying Mantises during the 2012 growing season than in recent years – which sparked conversations about how long they can live and whether or not it is illegal to kill one. (Explored in one of our local blog posts after a mantis was carefully escorted from the Washington National’s field during a baseball game: http://compost2themoon.com/?p=2741 )
Wondering if you have any insight on either of those topics and/or ideas about why we all saw so many this year. And if you happen to have any suggestions about monitoring their egg sacks, that’d be great too. We discovered a couple on wooden tomato/pepper stakes in the field and set them aside in the barn. Are they better off outdoors in the elements?
Attaching a few of my favorite pictures of them from 2012 too.
Thanks and looking forward to using this site more!
Signature: Farmer Deb

Chinese Mantis

Hi Farmer Deb,
Just like other insects, and all other animals for that matter, when conditions including the weather and food supply are favorable, Mantis populations may spike.  They do not stay constant from year to year and this may have been an exceptional year for Mantids in your area.  Additionally, this is a Chinese Mantis, an introduced species.  According to BugGuide:  “Introduced as pest control and sold for that purpose. However Chinese mantis also eat the smaller native mantids. This has led to declines in population numbers of the native mantis species in some areas, but none of them are listed as threatened at this time.”  Since the ootheca of the Chinese Mantis are sold to control other insects and they are especially popular with organic gardeners, the populations of the Chinese Mantids gets human assistance which is not provided for native species which are not as economically viable as a means of biological control.  With regards to your specific questions, the life span of a Mantis is generally a single season, though a female may live longer in captivity where weather conditions do not have the same effect.  The ootheca are better left outdoors so that the indoor warmth does not cause the young to emerge too early.  We are not aware of any law protecting Mantids, though some local jurisdictions might have such laws.

Thanks so much for the response! I moved the ootheca outdoors and look forward to seeing which kind of mantids emerge in the spring (although I guess they will all be quite tiny and difficult to identify then). Maybe next fall I will see if one of the adults wants to live in captivity through the winter like that one on your website!
WR,
Deb

Letter 3 – Chinese Mantis

 

Subject:Long bug
Geographic location of the bug:  Great lakes
Date: 10/18/2017
Time: 05:47 PM EDT
I saw this bug on my step. It was being attacked by bees that have a nest under my siding.
How you want your letter signed:  Thank you.

Chinese Mantis

This is a Chinese Mantis which is described on BugGuide as being:  “Tan to pale green. Vertically striped face. Forewings tan with green along front margin.”  BugGuide also notes:  “Widely distributed in the U.S. due to the availability of commercially purchased egg-cases.”  We strongly suspect you are mistaked that:  “It was being attacked by bees that have a nest under my siding.”  It is much more likely that its attackers were Yellowjackets or Hornets.

Thank you Daniel for getting back to me. What a great and interesting website. Best of luck to you. Once again Thanks for the information. Doug Oyler Erie PA

Letter 4 – Chinese Mantis is house pet

 

Subject: Tenodera sinensis (Chinese Mantis)
Location: Newtown Square, PA
November 19, 2012 6:25 pm
Hello Daniel,
You do terrific work on the site! Thanks you. Not sure if you post already-identified insects. This is Nikki, a 7 month old Tenodera sinensis. She’s a house pet. This macro image shows Nikki’s femoral brushes (left raptor leg)used to groom face and eyes.
Signature: Digger

Portrait of Nikki

Hi Digger,
Your portraits of Nikki are quite stunning.  Thank you for sending them. 

Chinese Mantis

 

Letter 5 – Male Chinese Mantis

 

Subject:  what is this bug
Geographic location of the bug:  chicagoland – suburban area
Date: 08/30/2017
Time: 08:15 AM EDT
about 5″ long. looked to be able to fly.
How you want your letter signed:  jim

Male Chinese Mantis

Hi Jim,
This looks to us like a male Chinese Mantis, a species now naturalized in many parts of North America.

Letter 6 – Male Chinese Mantis in Northeast Ohio

 

Subject:  Mature and Immature Chinese Mantis
Geographic location of the bug:  Campbell, Ohio
Date: 07/27/2021
Time: 03:47 PM EDT
Gentle Readers,
While working in the garden last Friday, Daniel was surprised to see a Mantid fly from one bed of shrubs to the large thistle that is daily visited by butterflies and goldfinches.  He had trouble locating the well camouflaged male Chinese Mantis.

Male Chinese Mantis

Daniel recalled the immature green and brown Mantids he found in the bed of shrubs in late July while weeding invasive thistles, and he suspects this immature Brown Mantis grew into the male that flew last Friday.

Immature Chinese 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.

1 thought on “Chinese Mantis: All You Need to Know for a Fascinating Encounter”

  1. I also have purchased 3 egg cases off of E-Bay and I have about 10 good healthy mantis’s. I live in Alberta Can. I can honestly say I don’t like bugs but these little creatures are interesting enough I buy food for them at our local pet store. They eat flightless fruit flies and tiny crickets nad as well ladybugs. Afew of them had shed a couple of times, but I don’t see any wings just yet. I’m pretty sure I have more females than males, they are also between an inch to two inches long. I keep them in a 40 gal aquarium. And have their food cycle living in the tank with them so they are never without food. I picked them up so they could eat my spidermites but haven’t released them yet and not sure how they will do in my flowers against the mites.

    Reply

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