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

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The Grizzled Mantis is a fascinating insect that has captured the attention of many enthusiasts. These captivating creatures are easily recognized by their specialized raptorial front legs, which they use to grasp prey. Their unique appearance, including elongated bodies and triangular heads, make them a compelling subject of study.

Native to the eastern United States, the Grizzled Mantis can be found in various environments, from gardens to forests. They are considered beneficial predators as they help to control populations of smaller insects. As members of the Mantodea order, they share certain characteristics with other mantids such as the Carolina mantid and the Chinese mantid.

This insect’s appearance serves a purpose, as they are known for their excellent camouflage. The coloration of the Grizzled Mantis, typically tan, grayish, or green, helps it blend seamlessly with its natural surroundings. This adaptation allows it to effectively ambush and capture its prey without being spotted by predators or other threats.

Grizzled Mantis Identification

Body and Color

The Grizzled Mantis, also known as Gonatista grisea, features a unique mottled gray and green body color. This distinctive pattern serves as excellent camouflage for the mantis, allowing it to blend seamlessly with bark or lichen when resting in their natural habitat. Some key characteristics include:

  • A mottled gray and green body
  • Body length usually around 2 inches (5 cm)

Head and Antennae

The head of the Grizzled Mantis, like other mantis species, is triangular-shaped with a flexible neck, allowing it to swivel its head 180 degrees. The antennae are quite notable, as they consist of several filamentous segments that aid in detecting prey and sensing their surroundings. Key features of the head and antennae include:

  • Triangular head shape
  • Flexible neck
  • Filamentous antennae segments

Eyes and Ocelli

Grizzled Mantis is equipped with two large, prominent compound eyes that grant them excellent binocular vision. This characteristic is crucial when hunting and capturing prey. Moreover, they also possess three small, simple eyes known as ocelli, located between their compound eyes, which help them sense changes in light intensity. Important aspects of Grizzled Mantis eyes include:

  • Two large compound eyes
  • Three ocelli between compound eyes
  • Excellent binocular vision
Feature Grizzled Mantis
Body and Color Mottled gray and green
Body Length Around 2 inches (5 cm)
Head Shape Triangular
Neck Flexibility High (180 degrees)
Antennae Segmentation Filamentous
Compound Eyes Two large eyes
Ocelli (Simple Eyes) Three eyes
Vision Type Binocular

Habitat and Distribution

United States Range

The Grizzled mantis, scientifically known as Gonatista grisea, is commonly found throughout the southeastern United States, including states like Florida and Georgia. Their range extends up to South Carolina. This mantid is arboreal, meaning it primarily dwells in trees.

Key features of their habitat include:

  • Tree trunks
  • Southern US states
  • Mottled gray-green camouflage

Caribbean Islands

Outside the United States, the Grizzled mantis is also found in various Caribbean islands, such as:

Their ability to blend in with lichens on tree trunks allows them to effectively camouflage and thrive in these environments.

Comparison Table

Feature United States Range Caribbean Islands
Habitat Location Southeastern US (FL, GA, SC) Puerto Rico, Cuba, Haiti
Primary Dwelling Tree trunks Tree trunks
Camouflage Color Mottled gray-green Mottled gray-green
Environment Adaptation Arboreal Arboreal

Behavior and Hunting Techniques

Camouflage and Ambush

The Grizzled Mantis is known for its unique camouflage abilities, which enable it to blend in with its surroundings. This tree-dwelling insect primarily mimics lichens, allowing it to remain virtually invisible against tree trunks1. The ambush method is a key aspect of its hunting strategy. Here are some of the fascinating features of its camouflage and ambush techniques:

  • Mottled gray-green coloration
  • Somewhat flattened body
  • Excellent adaptation to arboreal environments1

Feeding and Prey

As predators of other arthropods, Grizzled Mantises have a specialized way of feeding and selecting prey. Their hunting techniques mainly involve:

  • Lying in wait, as they remain camouflaged
  • Surveying their surroundings for a potential meal2
  • Using their raptorial front legs to grasp prey3

Here is a comparison table of the Grizzled Mantis’s feeding technique compared to that of other common mantids():

Grizzled Mantis (Gonatista grisea) Other common mantids
Camouflage and ambush method Ambush and direct attack
Primarily arthropod prey Variety of insects, including spiders4

In their nymph stages, Grizzled Mantises face a challenging time due to their size. They rely on their camouflaged and ambush methods to survive and thrive in their habitat1.

Life Cycle and Reproduction

Mating and Fertilization

Grizzled mantids engage in mating with a risk of sexual cannibalism. The female may consume the male during or after mating.

Egg Cases and Ootheca

  • Females lay eggs in protective cases called ootheca
  • Ootheca attach to twigs or branches
  • They are paper-like, providing insulation and protection
  • Eggs overwinter inside ootheca, hatching in spring

Nymphs and Metamorphosis

Grizzled mantids display hemimetabolism in their life cycle:

  1. Egg stage
  2. Nymph stage: smaller, wingless versions of adults
  3. Adult stage: final stage with wings and reproductive capabilities

Comparison Table:

Stage Characteristics Examples
Egg Inside ootheca Overwintering, hatching in spring
Nymph Wingless, small Resemble adults, grow through molting
Adult Wings, reproduce Predatory behavior, arboreal(tree-dwelling)

Grizzled mantid nymphs use their large eyes to locate and hunt prey. Their strong raptorial legs allow them to grasp and consume arthropods.

Grizzled Mantis as a Pet

Care and Maintenance

The Grizzled Mantis, also known as the Gonatista grisea, is an arboreal insect that can be a unique and low maintenance pet. Here are some basic care requirements:

  • Temperature: Keep the enclosure between 70-80°F (21-26°C).
  • Humidity: Maintain humidity levels around 50-60%.
  • Housing: Provide a well-ventilated enclosure, such as a mesh cage, with twigs and leaves for climbing.
  • Feeding: Offer live prey like moths and small insects every 2-3 days.

Mantises, including the Grizzled Mantis, are cannibalistic. Therefore, it’s best to keep them individually and avoid overcrowding their enclosure.

Pet Regulations

Before getting a Grizzled Mantis, make sure to check your local and regional regulations. Some areas require permits for keeping exotic species like mantises. Always ensure compliance with the law and obtain necessary permissions if needed.

Exotic Species

Compared to other pet mantises, the Grizzled Mantis’s camouflage and flattened appearance make it stand out from the crowd. Here’s a comparison table of Grizzled Mantis and another popular pet mantis, the Chinese Praying Mantis (Tenodera sinensis):

Grizzled Mantis Chinese Praying Mantis
Size 3-5 inches (7-12 cm) 3-4 inches (7-10 cm)
Color Mottled gray-green Brown or green
Camouflage Mimics lichens Blends with vegetation
Habitat Arboreal (tree dwelling) Varied habitats

Both species can be fascinating pets, but the Grizzled Mantis’s unique appearance and arboreal lifestyle make it a standout choice for exotics enthusiasts. Just remember to provide proper care, and be mindful of their cannibalistic nature.

Comparative Overview

Grizzled Mantis and Other Mantodea Species

The Grizzled Mantis (Gonatista grisea) is a species of mantis found in Florida and is an arboreal (tree-dwelling) mantid. They belong to the order Mantodea, which includes other notable species such as the Chinese Mantis (Tenodera sinensis), European Mantis (Mantis religiosa), and the Giant Asian Mantis (Hierodula membranacea).

Unique Features of Grizzled Mantis

  • Coloration: Grizzled Mantis are mottled gray-green in color, which allows them to mimic lichens, providing excellent camouflage.
  • Arboreal lifestyle: They primarily live on tree trunks and blend easily with their surroundings.
  • Prey: Grizzled Mantids are predators of other arthropods.

Grizzled Mantis are distinguishable from other mantis species in more ways than just coloration. Here’s a comparison table highlighting some of the key differences:

Feature Grizzled Mantis Chinese Mantis European Mantis Giant Asian Mantis
Size Small to medium Large Medium Large
Color Gray-green Brown-green Green Green-yellow
Habitat Arboreal Various Various Various
Origin Florida, USA China Europe Southeast Asia

Grizzled Mantis’ primary habitat consists of trees such as Hicoria floridana, Bursera simaruba, Roystonea regia, Coccoloba uvifera, Quercus nigra, Magnolia spp., and Olea europaea. Other mantis species can be found in a wider range of habitats.

Some additional characteristics of mantids in general include:

  • Metamorphosis: Undergo incomplete metamorphosis, with stages consisting of egg, nymph, and adult.
  • Sexual dimorphism: Males and females are generally different in size and color.
  • Raptorial forelegs: Mantids have specialized front legs adapted for catching prey.
  • Carnivorous diet: Feed on a variety of insects and small vertebrates.

In conclusion, the unique features of the Grizzled Mantis, such as its gray-green coloration, arboreal habitat, and lichen-mimicking ability, set it apart from other mantis species. With this comparative overview, you can better understand the incredible biodiversity within the order Mantodea.

Footnotes

  1. Grizzled mantid – Gonatista grisea – Entomology and Nematology Department 2 3

  2. Praying Mantis – Garden Hunters | Extension Marketing and Communications

  3. Mantids (Mantises) | Missouri Department of Conservation

  4. Carolina Mantid | NC State Extension – North Carolina State University

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 – Camouflaged Grizzled Mantis

 

Grizzled Mantis
Check out the Camouflage on this grizzled mantis found on a loblolly pine in the Coastal Plain of South Carolina. Didn’t know what kind of Mantid it was till I searched you site, thanks. Feel Free to post.
Ron Chicone, Jr.
Columbia, SC

Hi Ron,
The big question on our minds is “However did you manage to spot that Grizzled Mantis on that tree?”

Yea, I was surprised to see the bark move and quickly run to the opposite side of the tree when I started to tie some flagging for a wetland delineation. I didn’t know we had such a unique mantid native to SC. Thanks for your site.
Ron

Letter 2 – Grizzled Mantid

 

Subject: Mysterious Insect
Location: Georgia
August 29, 2016 10:06 pm
Hi. Came across this insect on my front porch. I have never seen anything like it! I’m hoping you can tell me what it is. Thank you!
Signature: Anna Rovolis

Grizzled Mantis
Grizzled Mantid

Dear Anna,
This little beauty is a female Grizzled Mantid, a native predator.  Also known as a Lichen Mimic Mantid, this species is very well camouflaged on tree bark, which might explain why you have never before noticed one.

Thank you for the info!!
Thanks,
Anna

Hi Anna,
Your posting has already gotten 101 Facebook “likes” on our site.

Letter 3 – Grizzled Mantis

 

A bug I’ve never see before
Bugman,
I live in Tampa Florida. Was out in the yard this morning doing some mulching when I saw this very interesting creature scurrying around the trunk of one of my oak trees. The way it reacts to a perceived threat is the most interesting thing to me. Looks like some kind of a Mantis but, I haven’t been able to find any reference to this particular creature. Would appreciate your help in identifying him (or her).Thanks,
Luis Silva
Tampa, Fl

Hi Luis,
We identified your Grizzled Mantis, Gonatista grisea, thanks to a great image on BugGuide. We do like your image better though. Thanks for adding to our archive with a new species. The coloration allows the mantis to mimic lichen covered twigs.

Letter 4 – Grizzled Mantis

 

Need Help Identifying This Insect.
Hello Bugman,
I think your site is neat, although i have to admit that i have a slight fear of insects, your site allows me to look at them within the safety of my computer screen. Heres a quick picture of one i found near the front door of our house that intrigued me. My initial thought was praying mantis, but i could not find a kind that matched exactly to the one i found, so im hoping you can help me out. Thanks,
Brian, Southern Florida.

Hi Brian,
This is a Grizzled Mantis, Gonatista grisea, so your identification was correct. They are harmless.

Letter 5 – Grizzled Mantis

 

Here’s my bug
Hello..
It’s a bit bigger than one inch (I think) and I’m in the Tampa Florida Area. Thanks!
Karen Blanco

Hi Karen,
The forshortening on the photo of this Grizzled Mantis is quite disconcerting. The Grizzled Mantis, Gonatista grisea, mimics lichen for camouflage.

Letter 6 – Grizzled Mantis

 

identify my bug
Hi, I took this picture of a bug on the outside of my house. I live on the east coast of Florida in Brevard County. I have lived in my house for almost ten years and I have never seen anything like it. Can you tell me what it is? Thank you,
Tori

Hi Tori,
This is a Grizzled Mantis, Gonatista grisea. According to BugGuide the species, which is also known as the Lichen Mimic Mantid, “May be found in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. May also be found in Puerto Rico and Cuba.”

Letter 7 – Grizzled Mantid

 

Mantis?
November 29, 2009
Hi Daniel,
I went to Middleburg, Florida (Jacksonville area) for Thanksgiving.  This critter was right outside the front door of my son’s home.  I’d never seen anything like it, but the head shape made me think of a mantis…WINGS???  All pages on your site have been viewed.  Found a Gonatista grisea – Grizzled Matis on BugGuide, but again…WINGS???
Everyone I left in Florida is waiting for an identification.  Hoping you can help so I don’t disappoint anyone.
Many thanx,
R.G. Marion
Great Smoky Mountains

Grizzled Mantis
Grizzled Mantid

Hi R.G.
Sorry for the delay.  We were just wrapping the first draft manuscript of our book when you wrote, and today we are trying to answer a few older emails.  We believe your identification of the Grizzled Mantid is correct.  The male has well developed wings.  The species is also called a Lichen Mimic Mantid.

Letter 8 – Grizzled Mantis

 

Unknown Phasmid?
Location:  Orlando, Florida
August 26, 2010 7:12 am
This insect was found on the trunk of a Starfruit tree. It’s about 2 inches in length. I haven’t seen one like it before around here, but maybe that’s because they blend in so well!
GrowerJim

Grizzled Mantis

Dear GrowerJim,
Your insect is a Mantis, not a Phasmid or Walkingstick.  It appears to be a Grizzled Mantis,
Gonatista grisea, a species reported on BugGuide from North Carolina to Florida.  According to the information page on BugGuide, it is:  “Mottled gray, green and brown and overall body shape is broad and flattened. Pronotum not narrowed ahead of point where frong legs attached. Female has short wings, abdomen lobed on side. In male, wings cover abdomen at restYour individual fits the description of a female.

Letter 9 – Grizzled Mantis

 

What’s this bug?
Location: Gainesville, FL
October 25, 2011 7:30 pm
I found this bug hanging out on my front door frame at night. And it scared me as I’ve never seen this kind of bug before. I was afraid it might fly in my house as I ran in, but it did not move at all when I cracked my door open to check if it was still there. The next morning, I found it dead on the ground and took a couple of pictures. After searching the internet, I came to the conclusion it might be part of the Corydalidae family. However, I didn’t find an identical looking picture. Can you help me identify it? Thanks!!
Signature: Gee

Grizzled Mantis

Dear Gee,
We are sad to hear that some misfortune befell this lovely Grizzled Mantis,
Gonatista grisea, sometime during the night.  We identified it on BugGuide.  The long wings indicate that this individual is a male.

Grizzled Mantis

 

Letter 10 – Grizzled Mantis

 

A insect that spent the day on the screen enclosure
Location: Lithia, Florida
December 12, 2011 11:21 am
Hi Bugman,
Could you identify this insect that spent the day on my screen enclosure in Central Florida? Thank you!
Signature: Lorraine

Grizzled Mantis

Dear Lorraine,
The Grizzled Mantis is not an uncommon insect in Florida, but because of its excellent camouflage the Grizzled Mantis is easily overlooked, especially when it rests in its typical habitat, moss and lichen covered tree bark.

Grizzled Mantis

Letter 11 – Grizzled Mantis

 

Grizzled Mantis
Location: North Central Florida – Ocala National Forest
December 9, 2011 7:34 pm
Hi,
I found this mantis under a car cover in North Central Florida. It had to be moved because although we had a cold night, by midafternoon the temp was 75 degrees F and I wanted to apply the finish coat of paint onto the car. My son got it to grab onto a stick and we put it in a safe place, far away from the painting zone. My question: what are the extremes of cold weather that these creatures can survive?
Signature: Lynnepear

Grizzled Mantis

Dear Lynnepear,
We don’t know if there is a recorded low temperature that a Grizzled Mantis has survived.  If they are able to take shelter, they can probably survive most short cold snaps that might occur in Florida.  As a species, the Grizzled Mantis is not recorded north of North Carolina on BugGuide, so they are a warm climate species.  Ootheca or egg cases are more likely to survive extended cold weather ensuring the perpetuation of the species.

Grizzled Mantis

Thanks for the info! Now I have an additional reason to cover my tender yard plants during freezing nights—the covers may provide shelter for some of the tiny creatures in the yard! I’ll just have to be careful to shake the covers out carefully when they’re removed during the day.

For that we will tag you a Bug Humanitarian.

 

Letter 12 – Grizzled Mantis

 

Subject: what’s this bug, please ?!
Location: west central florida
December 4, 2012 10:34 pm
found this in my florida garden today –
do you recognize it ?
thank you !
Signature: lynnie

Grizzled Mantis

Hi Lynnie,
Though this Grizzled Mantis,
Gonatista grisea, is easy enough to see on this wood background, she will nearly disappear and be impossible to find on bark or a lichen covered branch like this individual from our archives.

Letter 13 – Grizzled Mantis

 

Subject: Creepy insect
Location: Chatham county, GA – Savannah
November 7, 2015 6:29 am
Mr bugman, this prehistoric looking bug spread it’s wings at me when threatened by a broom stick…note I never intended to kill it, and didn’t. But, the scary and surprisingly part is that when unexpectedley spread it’s hidden wing it was of a beautiful violet irredescent type , and intimidating to me at the same time!
What kind of bug is it!?
Signature: Curious and cautious Marc

Grizzled Mantis
Grizzled Mantis

Dear Curious and cautious Marc,
This native Grizzled Mantis is a beneficial predator.

Letter 14 – Grizzled Mantis

 

Subject: Florida Bark Mantis
Location: Naples, FL
December 2, 2016 8:11 pm
Hello!
This little guy below has been hanging out on my lanai screen for at least 12 hours. I can’t find much information on the florida bark mantis but we are thinking this is what it is? Should I do anything for it or just leave it be?
Signature: Courtney Fosnight

Grizzled Mantis
Grizzled Mantis

Dear Courtney,
You are correct that this is a Florida Bark Mantis or Grizzled Mantis, and she is a female.  According to BugGuide:  “May be found in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. May also be found in Puerto Rico and Cuba .”  In our opinion, you should leave her be.

Letter 15 – Grizzled Mantis

 

Subject: What’s this Bug?
Location: Florida
December 7, 2016 2:24 pm
I found this outside my front door this morning. Its December 7th and we live near Tampa Florida. Its been unusually warm this past week although we getting a child front in tomorrow. When I got home from work it was still in the same place. I don’t know if its some type of mantis or beetle? I looked through over 300 pictures to find what it was but couldn’t find it. I would love your help. Thank you!
Signature: Olga

Grizzled Mantis
Grizzled Mantis

Dear Olga,
Though your image is lacking in critical clarity, it inarguably represents a Grizzled Mantis or Florida Bark Mantis.

Letter 16 – Grizzled Mantis

 

Subject: What is this insect
Location: Delray Beach, Florida
January 15, 2017 8:57 pm
Dear Bugman:
This insect was found on my front brick walkway close to the yard and to flower bed. It is about 1.5 inches in length and is very well camouflaged. I live in Delray Beach, Florida which is southeast Florida.
Signature: Sally Sperry

Grizzled Mantis

Dear Sally,
The Grizzled Mantis or Florida Bark Mantid is quite difficult to spot when it rests on tree bark.

Letter 17 – Grizzled Mantis

 

Subject:  What is this bug?
Geographic location of the bug:  Saint Augustine, Fl
Date: 01/03/2019
Time: 05:01 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Please help us figure out what kind of bug this is!
How you want your letter signed:  St A Crew

Grizzled Mantis

Dear St A Crew,
This is a Grizzled Mantis or Florida Bark Mantis,
Gonatista grisea, a native predator that is nearly impossible to find when it is resting camouflaged on the trunk of a tree.

Letter 18 – Male Grizzled Mantis

 

Please help identify
Lisa Anne and Daniel,
We recently took a canoe trip on Silver River in the Ocala National Forest in Florida. We found this in our canoe the next morning at the hotel in Ocala. Some of the photos of gonatista pronotum look like it, some other photos of gonatista grisea resemble it. Can you please help us identify it? Many thanks,
Jeannene and Scott Kennedy

Hi Jeannene and Scott,
The pronotum is part of the thorax on an insect. Your letter seems to imply that there is a species named Gonatista pronotum, and to the best of our knowledge, this is not true. We feel this is a male Grizzled Mantis, Gonatista grisea, as evidenced by an image on BugGuide. BugGuide also states that this species, which is also known as the Lichen Mimic Mantid is: “Mottled gray, green and brown and overall body shape is broad and flattened. Pronotum not narrowed ahead of point where frong [sic] legs attached. Female has short wings, abdomen lobed on side. In male, wings cover abdomen at rest.”

Letter 19 – Male Grizzled Mantis

 

Florida bug
Location: Spring Hill, Florida
November 21, 2011 10:04 am
Greetings! I live in west-central Florida and found this sitting on the wall outside my front door. Its face looks like a praying mantis but I couldn’t find any picture of one in a similar life stage. What is it? Thanks!!
Signature: Emmy

Grizzled Mantis

Hi Emmy,
This insect looks like a Mantis because it is a Mantis, a Grizzled Mantis,
Gonatista grisea more specifically.  They are very well camouflaged on tree bark.  It is also known as a Lichen Mimic Mantis.  Your individual is a male.  Females have shorter wings.

Daniel, thank you so much!!! I appreciate your response and will share with all who I made curious!  🙂
Emily

Authors

  • 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.

    View all posts
  • 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.

    View all posts
Tags: Grizzled Mantis

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