Chinese Mantis Life Cycle: A Fascinating Journey Explained

The Chinese mantis is a nonnative, fascinating insect with a unique life cycle. Often referred to as a “praying mantis” due to its front legs resembling hands folded in prayer, this intriguing creature is an ambush predator and can be found in various shades of green and tan link.

Hatching in spring, young mantises spend their time eating, growing, and molting throughout the growing season. As the season progresses, they eventually mate and lay eggs, completing their life cycle within a year link. Whether you’re an insect enthusiast or simply curious about these captivating predators, understanding the Chinese mantis life cycle offers a glimpse into the intricate world of nature.

Chinese Mantis Description

Physical Characteristics

The Chinese mantis (Tenodera sinensis) is a well-known type of mantis insect. As a long and slender insect, the male typically measures around 3 inches, while females grow up to 4 3/8 inches 1. Their triangular heads have extremely thin antennae and prominent eyes, making them easily identifiable2. The mantis’ front legs, or forelegs, are adapted for grasping prey and are often held against its thorax in a “praying” position1. It has a unique facial shield, which is the area of the face in front of the antennae and between the eyes3.

  • Length: 3 inches (males), 4 3/8 inches (females)
  • Thin antennae
  • Triangular head
  • Grasping forelegs

Colors and Patterns

Chinese mantises display a range of colors depending on their environment, typically presenting in shades of pale green to tan. The tan color variation usually has a green line running down the side, at the edges of their forewings1. This green line is believed to aid in camouflage.

Some distinct features of Chinese mantis patterns include:

  • Pale green to tan coloring
  • Green edge line on tan variation
  • Triangular facial shield (square with vertical stripes in some cases)

Life Cycle

Eggs and Ootheca

The life cycle of a Chinese mantis begins with eggs that are laid in a protective case called an ootheca. Female mantises produce oothecae which contain many eggs. Some key features of the ootheca include:

  • Typically brown or tan
  • Made of a foam-like material
  • Eggs are kept safe from predators

Nymph Stages

After hatching, Chinese mantises go through a series of nymph stages. During these stages, they resemble smaller versions of adult mantises. As they grow, mantises molt to shed their exoskeleton, gradually becoming more developed. Key characteristics of the nymph stages are:

  • Several molts
  • Wings not fully developed
  • Similar appearance to adults, but smaller

Adult Stage

Once the Chinese mantis reaches the adult stage, it has fully developed wings and can reproduce.

Male Chinese Mantis:

  • Around 3 inches long
  • Often brownish
  • More agile fliers

Female Chinese Mantis:

  • About 4 3/8 inches long
  • Green or greenish
  • Less agile fliers

Mating and Reproduction

Mating occurs in the adult stage. After mating, the female produces oothecae and lays eggs, continuing the life cycle. Chinese mantises typically live for only about one year.

Footnotes

  1. https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/chinese-mantid 2 3

  2. https://entomology.ces.ncsu.edu/biological-control-information-center/beneficial-predators/chinese-mantid/

  3. https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/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 – Immature Chinese Mantis

 

Subject:  Chinese Mantis
Geographic location of the bug:  Wilmette Illinois
August 28, 2017 7:57 AM
I believe this to be a Chinese Mantis. I thought he was quite photogenic.
How you want your letter signed:  Karin Weidman

Immature Chinese Mantis

Dear Karin,
This Mantis is immature and identification of immature individuals is often more difficult than the identification of mature adults.  The wing pads do appear to have a green edge, so we believe your identification of an immature Chinese Mantis is correct.

Immature Chinese Mantis

Letter 2 – Immature Chinese Mantis

 

Subject:  Stick Mantis or Stick Insect?
Geographic location of the bug:  Evergreen Park, IL (Chicago area)
Date: 08/15/2018
Time: 11:57 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  My boyfriend found this friend just outside our front door! I immediately thought stick insect, though I wasn’t aware, at the time, that we had any in the Midwest. He called Mantis, and I had to agree, especially considering that face/head.
It seemed a tiny bit shy.
I’ve searched the site here, and there was a picture of an Indian stick mantis that looked close. But, we’re pretty far from India!
From other pictures and posts on your site, it doesn’t seem to be a Western nor Eastern walking stick, since those don’t appear to have such a prominent (and adorably contemplative!) head.
What is this bug? Is it from a far away land? Or is it a native to these Chicago suburbs?
(I have some video, if that would help or you would like to see it – just let me know!)
How you want your letter signed:  Krissy Klabacha

Immature Chinese Mantis

Dear Krissy,
This is an immature Chinese Mantis,
Tenodera sinensis sinensis, and as its name indicates, it is Asian in origin, but it has been introduced to North America where it has naturalized, and indeed, in much of its introduced range, it is the most common Mantis found because it is sold (in the ootheca or egg case stage) as a biological control for insects in the garden.  According to BugGuide:  “Tan to pale green. Vertically striped face. Forewings tan with green along front margin. Compound eyes chocolate-brown at sunset, pale tan soon after sunrise and during the day.”  Here is a BugGuide image for comparison.  BugGuide also states:  “Introduced from China. Was first collected in Pennsylvania in 1896. Later it was introduced to other states to combat pests. It is thought to outcompete many of the native preying mantises, which are in decline.  It is sold as pest control, although its effectiveness is not proven. It is thought that Chinese mantis eats the smaller native mantids. This may have 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.  Egg cases are unmistakable.” See the Illinois Natural History Survey for information on Walkingsticks found in your area.

Thank you so much! You do such great work, and respond so quickly! I might have to look around the yard for any mantid egg cases. Are those the same as the hardened, almost walnut or Brazilian nut-looking cases found on tree branches? We’ve found one once before, a few years ago, but never identified the type of mantid it had once held.
Again, thank you for your help and for all of this info, including the link about local walkingsticks.
It’s so exciting to learn about all of the life that surrounds us, especially when it comes to creatures that I never knew were there! Here? There? Yes, here, there, and, in many cases, most everywhere.
Sincerely,
Kris Klabacha, friend to all animals*

* I do not have warm feelings for ticks nor for lady mosquitoes. Ticks are my least favorite animal of all, even though it’s the diseases they spread/transmit that cause me to dislike them so.  Perhaps your site can help me make some sort of peace with ticks and mosquitoes? Is there a page for that? In the meantime, I keep reminding myself that mosquitoes feed bats, and I love having bats around!

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 – Immature Chinese Mantis

 

Subject:  Chinese Mantis
Geographic location of the bug:  Wilmette Illinois
August 28, 2017 7:57 AM
I believe this to be a Chinese Mantis. I thought he was quite photogenic.
How you want your letter signed:  Karin Weidman

Immature Chinese Mantis

Dear Karin,
This Mantis is immature and identification of immature individuals is often more difficult than the identification of mature adults.  The wing pads do appear to have a green edge, so we believe your identification of an immature Chinese Mantis is correct.

Immature Chinese Mantis

Letter 2 – Immature Chinese Mantis

 

Subject:  Stick Mantis or Stick Insect?
Geographic location of the bug:  Evergreen Park, IL (Chicago area)
Date: 08/15/2018
Time: 11:57 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  My boyfriend found this friend just outside our front door! I immediately thought stick insect, though I wasn’t aware, at the time, that we had any in the Midwest. He called Mantis, and I had to agree, especially considering that face/head.
It seemed a tiny bit shy.
I’ve searched the site here, and there was a picture of an Indian stick mantis that looked close. But, we’re pretty far from India!
From other pictures and posts on your site, it doesn’t seem to be a Western nor Eastern walking stick, since those don’t appear to have such a prominent (and adorably contemplative!) head.
What is this bug? Is it from a far away land? Or is it a native to these Chicago suburbs?
(I have some video, if that would help or you would like to see it – just let me know!)
How you want your letter signed:  Krissy Klabacha

Immature Chinese Mantis

Dear Krissy,
This is an immature Chinese Mantis,
Tenodera sinensis sinensis, and as its name indicates, it is Asian in origin, but it has been introduced to North America where it has naturalized, and indeed, in much of its introduced range, it is the most common Mantis found because it is sold (in the ootheca or egg case stage) as a biological control for insects in the garden.  According to BugGuide:  “Tan to pale green. Vertically striped face. Forewings tan with green along front margin. Compound eyes chocolate-brown at sunset, pale tan soon after sunrise and during the day.”  Here is a BugGuide image for comparison.  BugGuide also states:  “Introduced from China. Was first collected in Pennsylvania in 1896. Later it was introduced to other states to combat pests. It is thought to outcompete many of the native preying mantises, which are in decline.  It is sold as pest control, although its effectiveness is not proven. It is thought that Chinese mantis eats the smaller native mantids. This may have 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.  Egg cases are unmistakable.” See the Illinois Natural History Survey for information on Walkingsticks found in your area.

Thank you so much! You do such great work, and respond so quickly! I might have to look around the yard for any mantid egg cases. Are those the same as the hardened, almost walnut or Brazilian nut-looking cases found on tree branches? We’ve found one once before, a few years ago, but never identified the type of mantid it had once held.
Again, thank you for your help and for all of this info, including the link about local walkingsticks.
It’s so exciting to learn about all of the life that surrounds us, especially when it comes to creatures that I never knew were there! Here? There? Yes, here, there, and, in many cases, most everywhere.
Sincerely,
Kris Klabacha, friend to all animals*

* I do not have warm feelings for ticks nor for lady mosquitoes. Ticks are my least favorite animal of all, even though it’s the diseases they spread/transmit that cause me to dislike them so.  Perhaps your site can help me make some sort of peace with ticks and mosquitoes? Is there a page for that? In the meantime, I keep reminding myself that mosquitoes feed bats, and I love having bats around!

Authors

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  • 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.

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  • 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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