The Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis carolina) is a beneficial insect predator commonly found in gardens and landscapes.
They are typically between 2 – 2.5 inches long and can have various colors, such as gray, green, or brown, often with spots or bands.
These insects are highly efficient hunters and help keep the population of other pests in check.
Many people wonder if Carolina mantises can bite humans.
While these fascinating creatures possess strong mandibles for capturing and consuming their prey, they generally pose no threat to humans.
This is because mantises are not venomous, and their primary focus is on hunting smaller insects like flies, mosquitoes, and moths.
Carolina Mantis Overview
Species and Distribution
The Carolina Mantis (Stagmomantis carolina) is a native predator insect found in the United States, predominantly in North and South Carolina, as well as parts of Mexico1.
It feeds on other smaller insects, helping maintain a balance in its ecosystem.
Appearance: Green, Brown, and Gray Variants
Carolina Mantises have a unique appearance, with three main color variations:
These color variants often have spots or bands, which help in camouflaging themselves in their environment2.
The mantis’ size varies from 2 to 2.5 inches3.
Habitat and Environment
Carolina Mantises prefer warm climates and can be found in a variety of habitats, including fields, gardens, and forests.
They mainly hunt in these areas due to their excellent camouflage skills4.
- Ambush predators
- Camouflage adaptations
- Raptorial front legs for grasping prey1
Behavior and Hunting Techniques
Camouflage and Ambush Predation
Carolina mantids are expert ambush predators with an impressive ability to blend in their surroundings.
The coloration of their bodies makes them practically invisible on stems and leaves.
They stay motionless, using their camouflage to blend in and wait for unsuspecting prey to come within reach.
Prey and Feeding Habits
Carolina mantids are carnivorous insects, preying on various insects like:
- Small insects
Their large compound eyes contain 10,000 light receptors that help them spot and track their prey.
They use their specialized raptorial front legs to grasp and hold their prey while they feed on it.
Reproduction and Lifecycle
Mating and Egg Laying
In the Carolina mantids’ life cycle, males and females mate in late summer to early fall.
After mating, the female will lay her eggs in an ootheca – a protective case that can hold up to 200 eggs
The nymphs will emerge from the ootheca in spring. They look like miniature versions of the adults but without wings.
As they grow, they will molt several times, shedding their exoskeleton to allow for growth.
|Eggs||Found in ootheca||Overwinter|
|Nymphs||Resemble miniature adults without wings, molt to grow||Spring to early summer|
|Adults||Develop wings, mate||Late summer to autumn|
Distribution and Habitat
Carolina mantids are native to the United States, particularly in the Southeast. They also extend their range to as far down as Mexico.
They inhabit various habitats such as meadows, fields, gardens, and even urban environments where their prey is abundant.
Interaction with Humans
Do Carolina Mantis Bite?
Carolina mantis are not considered dangerous to humans since they do not have venom or poisonous bites.
Although mantids possess spiky forelegs used for catching prey, their bites are relatively harmless to people.
Handling and Safety Precautions
While handling a Carolina mantis, it is essential to exercise caution. Here are some safety measures:
- Use gloves when handling them to avoid potential bites and scratches from their spikes.
- Avoid putting your fingers near their forelegs as they might mistake your movements for live insects.
In case of a bite, clean the area with soap and water. Follow these simple steps:
- Rinse the bitten area with warm water.
- Lather soap on the bite and gently scrub for a few seconds.
- Rinse the soap off and pat dry.
Gardening and Pest Management
Carolina mantids are beneficial in gardens as they prey on various small insects, such as:
- Fruit flies
However, they may also consume beneficial arthropods, like bees, butterflies, and wasps.
Due to their cannibalistic traits, it is essential to take note of the following points while introducing them to gardens:
- Maintain a balanced population to avoid sexual cannibalism.
- Provide an environment that mimics their natural habitat, such as tall grass and wooded areas.
- House them in well-ventilated enclosures with proper humidity levels if keeping indoors.
In conclusion, the Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis carolina) stands as a testament to the intricate balance of nature, serving as both a predator and a symbol of ecological harmony.
Native to various regions in the Americas, this insect showcases a fascinating life cycle and adaptive hunting techniques, contributing significantly to pest control in diverse habitats.
While they possess the ability to bite, they pose no real threat to humans, making them a captivating subject for observation and study.
Their role in gardens is twofold, preying on harmful insects while also impacting beneficial ones, underscoring the importance of mindful interaction with these remarkable creatures.
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 – Female Carolina Mantis
Subject: Praying mantis (patreon)
Geographic location of the bug: Lewis Center OH
Time: 10:29 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I’ve never seen such a pale colored mantis. I supposed it molted recently? It looks opalescent, so beautiful! I found it trapped in the vestibule of the Tim Hortons.
How you want your letter signed: Jennifer Huffman
This is an adult female Carolina Mantis. Though she has wings, she is not capable of flight. Only the adult males can fly. Carolina Mantids can be either brown or green, and sometimes a combination.
Though this individual is light, the color does not seem unusually light to us. Because of your kindness prompting you to release this Carolina Mantis from the vestibule where you found her trapped, we are tagging this posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award.
What an honor! I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my husband, who patiently waits for me to inspect and photograph bugs everywhere we go.
Sorry one follow up question … on your site it seems to be spelled “preying” mantis, but I had always understood the word as “praying” mantis?
Hi again Jennifer. We know that Praying Mantis is the more common spelling, but we prefer Preying Mantis. Here is an explanation we gave a reader 13 years ago.
Letter 2 – Female Carolina Mantis
Subject: Pretty praying mantis
Geographic location of the bug: Maryland
Time: 10:13 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Dear Bugman,
In all my years I’ve seen many mantises, of varying shades of green and brown, but I’ve never before seen such a dappled beauty! Is this a Carolina Mantis?
How you want your letter signed: Sydney
Letter 3 – Make My Day: Trio of Carolina Mantids, we believe
Subject: Mantids, cicadas, grasshoppers galore
Location: Texas Panhandle near Palo Duro Canyon
November 21, 2015 11:00 pm
We had a ridiculously wet winter and spring this year in the Texas Panhandle, so there was basically a plague of bugs and amphibians through the summer and fall.
The variety blew my mind! I was sorting through my photos and picked a few of my favorites to share with the WTB community. I feel fairly confident about the species of mantids, the Carolina, Chinese and European, but I have no idea about the grasshoppers or cicadas.
Signature: Brittani Hinders
Good Evening Brittani,
Your image of the trio of Mantids on your hand with that rock is just about the most stunning Buggy Accessory image we have ever received. We promote friendly interactions between insects and people and we like the idea of live insects as occasional fashion accessories, but not in a commercial way. This image really made the day of our editorial staff.
We actually believe all three individual in the image are of the same species, Stagmomantis carolina, based on images we found posted to BugGuide where it states: “Head and thorax almost as long as the body. Antennae about half as long as middle legs. Pale green to brownish grey, often inconspicuous on vegetation. Males usually brown, females green or brown.
Wings do not extend to tip of abdomen, especially in female. (Females apparently flightless, or nearly so.) Abdomen of female strongly widened in middle. Tegmina (outer wings) are broad, reaching apical third of the abdomen, with a stigmatic (dark) black patch.”
This BugGuide identification trait “The facial shield (plate below antennal insertion and between the eyes) is relatively long and narrow in Stagmomantis, more squarish in Tenodera sinensis” is especially evident in the green individual in your image who resembles this BugGuide image.
The victimized male in that image and the one represented in this BugGuide image look like the slender individual perched on your middle finger. Finally the third individual positioned on your pinkie looks like this brown female posted to BugGuide.
We really need to split your submission into three distinct postings, as we want to create numerous links to accommodate your sly tactic of increasing the number of image files that can be attached to the submission form. Additionally, multiple insect orders or families in the same submission is out of harmony with our archiving aesthetic. More later.
Thank you so much! Seeing my photos on WTB makes MY day, I’m really thrilled that you guys enjoyed the mantids. I’m also happy to be wrong. It hadn’t occurred to me that so much variety could come from one species, and that in itself is just as good as finding three different kinds.
I’ve attached a few more shots for your amusement. They were quite good little models! Although, mantids are my favorite bugs, so my opinion might be a little biased.
As for the Spotted Bird grasshopper, I think you’re definitely right about them faking being toxic. Either that or my dogs, who spent all summer catching and chowing down on them, have iron stomachs. They weren’t the most prevalent hoppers out in the yard, but they certainly were the largest.
Looking forward to hearing about the cicadas! It was lovely hearing them sing from the tops of our locust trees. One of the loudest summers ever! They were still surprisingly difficult to spot despite how many there must have been.
Thanks again! You guys rock. I threw in a couple bonus photos of a jumping spider eating a black widow.
Letter 4 – Male Carolina Mantis
Subject: Mantid Day
Location: Coryell County, Texas
October 4, 2015 8:09 pm
On Thursday, Sept. 24, I found a mantid on the back porch, around noon. It seemed injured, leaning to the left and not moving. I carried it to a crepe myrtle tree and it began to climb a bit.
Such an interesting insect! I tried to determine what kind it is, and am guessing that it’s a Carolina mantis, but I’m not sure at all.
Later that same day I was washing windows and found an ootheca under the bricks around a window. It looks as though the young may have hatched earlier this summer. I’m not sure if it’s from the same species of mantid.
The weather was sunny and warm, around 90 degrees.
Thank you, and best wishes.
We believe you are correct that is a Carolina Mantis, and it is a male. Female Carolina Mantids are flightless, are larger and have wider abdomens. We believe the hatched ootheca is also that of a Carolina Mantis. In the past few years, populations of their western relatives have been increasing in our own wild garden.