Praying Mantis: All You Need to Know for Ultimate Appreciation

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Praying mantids are fascinating insects known for their unique appearance and predatory behavior. These elongated creatures are easily recognizable by their modified front legs, which are designed for grasping prey and often held in a “prayerful” pose (source). Predominantly found in the order Mantodea, mantids have a flexible neck, making them the only insects capable of looking over their shoulders (source).

These insects play a vital role in the ecosystem as voracious predators, hunting a variety of insects and even some small vertebrates (source). Gardeners often consider mantids as natural pest control, but it’s important to note that they are generalist predators and may prey on both harmful and beneficial insects (source).

Some common features of praying mantids include:

  • Raptorial front legs for capturing prey
  • Flexible neck for exceptional range of vision
  • Camouflage to blend seamlessly with their surroundings

Overview of Praying Mantis

Origins and Distribution

The praying mantis is an insect belonging to the order Mantodea, which comprises over 2,000 species worldwide. These insects are mostly found in warm, tropical, and subtropical regions, although some species like the European mantis (Mantis religiosa) have adapted to temperate climates as well.

Anatomy and Appearance

A praying mantis has a distinctive appearance, with some common features among the species:

  • Triangular heads
  • Large compound eyes
  • Mandibles for chewing
  • Raptorial forelegs
  • Long, narrow body

The mantis’ size can vary among species, ranging from 1 to 6 inches in length. Their coloration often includes shades of green and brown but may also exhibit bright colors or patterns to blend with their environment.

Praying mantises possess wings and are capable of flying, but not all species are strong fliers. Their raptorial forelegs are specialized for grasping prey, and mantises are known for their ability to swivel their heads, providing them with a wide range of vision.

Comparison of Some Praying Mantis Features

Feature European Mantis Giant Asian Mantis
Size 2.4 to 3.5 inches 3 to 5 inches
Color Green and brown Green or brown
Wings Yes Yes
Raptorial Forelegs Yes Yes
Strong Fliers No Moderate

Some benefits and drawbacks of having praying mantises in your garden can be summarized as follows:

Pros:

  • Act as natural pest controllers, preying on various insects
  • Unique and fascinating creatures to observe

Cons:

  • Can also prey on beneficial insects, disturbing the garden’s ecological balance
  • May potentially bite if mishandled

Overall, praying mantises are fascinating insects, widely recognized for their distinctive appearance, predatory behavior, and the “praying” posture they adopt with their raptorial forelegs. While they can be beneficial for pest control, it’s essential to remember that they may also target helpful insects in your garden ecosystem.

Behavior and Ecology

Hunting and Diet

Praying mantises are carnivores feeding on live foods like flies, moths, or crickets. They are ambush predators and sit patiently, waiting for their prey. Some ways they capture their prey are:

  • Using their raptorial forelegs to grab unwary insects
  • Employing their flexible necks to look over and strike at an opportune moment

Some examples of their diet include:

  • Grasshoppers
  • Crickets
  • Small vertebrates (occasionally)

Camouflage and Defense

Praying mantises use camouflage for both hiding from predators and ambushing their prey. They blend into their surroundings by mimicking the appearance of leaves, sticks, or flowers. Types of camouflage they employ are:

  • Leaf-like structure and color
  • Bark pattern on their body
  • Flower-like shape and color

Mating and Reproduction

Mating in praying mantises involves a behavior known as sexual cannibalism. In some cases, the female may devour the male during or after mating. Their life cycle involves three stages: egg, nymph, and adult.

Key characteristics of praying mantis reproduction:

  • Egg-laying occurs in the fall, encased in a protective ootheca
  • Nymphs hatch in spring and resemble tiny adult mantises
  • They undergo several molts during their growth
Hunting and Diet Camouflage and Defense Mating and Reproduction
Carnivorous, feeds on live insects Uses camouflage for protection Sexual cannibalism sometimes occurs
Ambush predators Mimics leaves, sticks, or flowers Life cycle: egg, nymph, and adult
Examples: grasshoppers, crickets, moths Egg-laying in fall, hatching in spring

Popular Species

Chinese Mantis

  • Origin: China
  • Distribution: North America, Asia

The Chinese Mantis is the largest species native to Asia. It has been introduced to North America and is found in many gardens.

  • Size: 3-5 inches
  • Color: Pale green or tan

Carolina Mantis

  • Origin: America
  • Distribution: Southeastern United States

The Carolina Mantis is a native species to Southeastern US. It has a smaller size compared to the Chinese Mantis.

  • Size: 2-2.5 inches
  • Color: Gray or brownish green

Orchid Mantis

  • Origin: Southeast Asia
  • Distribution: Southeast Asia

The Orchid Mantis features a distinctive appearance that mimics an orchid flower.

  • Size: 1-2.5 inches
  • Color: Pink and white

Ghost Mantis

  • Origin: Africa
  • Distribution: Africa

The Ghost Mantis is known for its unique leaf-like appearance, which serves as camouflage in its natural habitat.

  • Size: 1.5-3 inches
  • Color: Dark brown or green

Spiny Flower Mantis

  • Origin: Africa
  • Distribution: Africa

The Spiny Flower Mantis exhibits vibrant colors and distinct spines on its legs.

  • Size: 1-1.5 inches
  • Color: White, pink, and green
Species Origin Distribution Size Range Colors
Chinese Mantis China North America, Asia 3-5 inches Pale green or tan
Carolina Mantis America Southeastern United States 2-2.5 inches Gray or brownish green
Orchid Mantis Southeast Asia Southeast Asia 1-2.5 inches Pink and white
Ghost Mantis Africa Africa 1.5-3 inches Dark brown or green
Spiny Flower Mantis Africa Africa 1-1.5 inches White, pink, and green

Keeping Praying Mantises as Pets

Housing

Praying mantises need a spacious enclosure with appropriate climbing options. For example, a 12x12x12 inch terrarium is suitable for most species. Ensure proper ventilation by using a mesh lid or screen on the top. Here are some features to consider for the enclosure:

  • Slightly larger than the mantis’ adult size
  • Vertical space for climbing
  • Adequate ventilation

Temperature and Humidity

Mantises come from both tropical and temperate regions. Tropical species require warmer conditions (75-85°F) and higher humidity (60-70%). In contrast, temperate species prefer slightly lower temperatures (65-75°F) and humidity levels (50-60%)1.

Type Temperature Humidity
Tropical 75-85°F 60-70%
Temperate 65-75°F 50-60%

Feeding and Nutrition

Nymphs and adults primarily eat live insects. Offer a variety of prey like fruit flies for smaller nymphs and crickets for larger mantises2. Here are some examples:

  • Fruit flies for small nymphs
  • Crickets for larger nymphs and adults

Note: Don’t let uneaten prey stay, as they may harm the mantis during molting.

Molting and Growth

Mantises molt several times before reaching adulthood3. During this time, raise humidity and remove prey to prevent injury. Key aspects during molting:

  • Increase humidity levels
  • Remove uneaten prey

Fascinating Facts and Trivia

The Praying Mantis, or Mantis religiosa, is a captivating predator. They are known for their ability to rotate their heads and their “praying” front legs.

  • Male mantids are usually smaller than females
  • Mantids have binocular vision, like hawks and owls
  • They can rotate their heads almost 180 degrees

Mantids are generalist predators. Their diet includes insects like flies and crickets, and even small vertebrates. A surprising fact is that they also prey on hummingbirds!

In the mating process, the male mantis faces a high risk. The female might bite and eat the male during or after mating. This behavior, although extreme, provides the female with additional nutrition for her offspring^source.

Here is a comparison table of male and female mantids:

Feature Male Female
Size Smaller Larger
Mating risks High, may be eaten Low
Offspring Can sire many Lays eggs

Mature mantids lay eggs in late summer. The female deposits them in a foamy, protective case called an ootheca. She usually attaches this case onto leaves or branches^source.

Some female mantids can reproduce without males. This process, called parthenogenesis, allows females to lay fertile eggs without mating. However, this occurs rarely and is not as common as sexual reproduction.

Mantids have a fascinating molting process. They grow by shedding their external skeleton, or exoskeleton, and growing a new one. During this vulnerable time, they hang upside down to help stretch out their new exoskeleton^source.

These insects are also considered natural pest control. Gardeners often appreciate mantids’ voracious appetite, as they help in reducing populations of harmful garden pests.

Footnotes

  1. Praying mantis temperature guide

  2. Feeding praying mantises

  3. Praying mantis molting process

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 – African Mantis: Bite to Foot causes reaction

 

Possible African Mantis – Bark Coloured
Location: Zambia – North Western Province
October 11, 2011 3:04 pm
The following bug landed on my wifes foot. She became startled and tried to push it off. It bit her foot. Her foot swelled up and was quite painful for several days. See image 3 which was taken after 24 hours. She saw a doc who gave her an anti-biotic. Her foot got better after 3-4 days but still sore 6 days later. I have seen bugs like this several times in the last 6-8 weeks. Is it a type of African mantis?
Signature: Ken

Unknown African Mantis

Hi Ken,
In answer to your question, Yes, this is a mantis.  We don’t recognize the species and African insects can be very difficult to correctly identify.  Many are probably not yet described and there isn’t much internet information available on African species.  We are surprised to hear about the reaction your wife had to her encounter with the mantis.  We are not yet ready to agree that it was a bite.  Mantids have sharp spines on their raptorial front legs, and it is our editorial staffs experience that Preying Mantids will stab an attacker before they will bite.  We are also curious if this was an individual allergic reaction of if this Mantis actually has some type of defense venom.  We have not heard of any venomous Mantids, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.  We would be more likely to presume that perhaps there was some foreign substance on the Mantid, like perhaps some plant toxin or other agent, and that caused the reaction. 

Reaction to Mantis "Bite"

The red spots at the base of the forelegs should be a good diagnostic feature in our attempts to identify this Mantis.  We also hope to elicit the assistance of our readership in this identification.

Unknown, possibly venomous, African Mantis

 

 

Letter 2 – Boxer Bark Mantid from Australia

 

Praying Mantid
Hey! I’m Kim (15 yrs) from Australia, NSW Wagga Wagga, and I was looking through bug identification sites, and yours is way the best! My Mum knows I’m nuts about insects and she found me this praying mantis in our outside cat’s basket on the pillow. I have never seen anything like this one before, maybe it’s using this as a disguise to be like an ant or a spider? Maybe it eats fleas? It also does this very weird yet interesting thing with it’s fore-legs, it does this circular motion with both arms a little apart doing it at the same time. Here’s a couple of photos of him. Sorry if they are not very clear, my digital camera does not have a macro lense, and she (or he, though I think it’s a she) won’t stop moving! It is 1.3 centimetres long, and the abdomen is approximetly 4mm at it’s largest point. Hope you can identify it! Thanks!
From Kim

Hi Kim,
Thanks for the compliment. Because your letter was so nice, we have been obsessed with properly identifying your Boxer Bark Mantid in the genus Paraoxypilus. The Geocities site states: ” The male and female of Boxer Bark Mantid species Paraoxypilus are markedly dissimilar to each other. The male is winged, slender and a little longer in body length. They have the cryptic colours and hard to be seen on bark. They colour patterns may be different for individual. … The Boxer Bark Mantids that we found are wingless, so they should be females (male is winged and with slender body, see below). They have long legs and holding their front pair of legs in ‘boxing’ display as most other praying mantids. Like some other praying mantids, they also have colour patches on their inner forelegs. The Boxer Bark Mantids have the orange ones. It is believed this is a territorial display to space out individuals of the same species. They can be found hunting on the rough bark gum tree trunk. They are usually not moving, but runs very fast when disturbed.” Since your specimen is wingless and not slender, we believe she is female as you presumed. Your description of the foreleg movements also supports the “boxing” description.

Letter 3 – African Mantis: Pseudocreobotra wahlbergii

 

strange looking mantis
Hi
I live in Swaziland in Southern Africa and saw a strangley patterned mantis this morning, maybe it is of some interest. (see pics attached)
Regards
Franc le Roux

Hi Franc,
We are struck by the asymetry of the pattern. What a lovely mantis.

Identified at last: Pseudocreobotra wahlbergii
(04/28/2006) Swaziland Mantis
The mantis with an unusual pattern on its back is Pseudocreobotra wahlbergii, I raise them myself. Attached is a L4 nymph of the same species in its threat pose. Feel free to crop the image.
Ian

Thank you so much Ian,
You have single-handedly identified all of our unidentified exotic Mantids. Next time we get one that stumps us, we plant to contact you. Thanks again.

Letter 4 – Another Decapitated Preying Mantis

 

bug identification
Location: Indiana
September 13, 2011 12:18 am
Hi Bugman
This bug was found in Indiana in September. It was floating in water and seems to be missing the head. It’s around 4 inches long. Would love to know what it is.
Signature: Amy

What took the Preying Mantis's head off???

Hi Amy,
This is the third image of a decapitated Preying Mantis we have posted this week, and we suspect birds are biting off the heads.  Here is a link to the second image of a decapitated Preying Mantis we posted a few days ago.  We might have guessed that the previous two individuals, which we suspect are males, lost their heads while mating, but this third individual appears to be a female.  We counted six abdominal segments, indicating a female, where males have eight abdominal segments.

Letter 5 – Arizona Unicorn Mantis

 

Subject: Unicorn Mantis
Location: Southern AZ (Santa Cruz county)
August 22, 2017 10:35 am
We have one of these rare mantis, shown here ready to catch flies.
See photo
I was told in was an AZ Unicorn Mantis and the first one our resident expert has seen here. I see you already have it listed in WTB as an Mexican Unicorn Mantis… I suppose this is the same. Nevertheless you can note this mantis is also in our region for the files.
Amazing to watch it catch flies.
Signature: Len Nowak ( Salero Ranch )

Arizona Unicorn Mantis

Dear Len,
You have been sending in some wonderful images to our site.  Your immature Arizona Unicorn Mantis does look very similar to this individual posted to BugGuide.  According to BugGuide, the range is “In United States: south-central to southeastern Arizona” and the site also states “Mexican Unicorn Mantis, Phyllovates chlorophaea, though ranges apparently do not overlap in United States.”  That link leads one elsewhere on BugGuide to the Texas Unicorn Mantis page, so that species must be synonymous with the Mexican Unicorn Mantis.  Thanks for bringing our attention to the posting on our site of the Mexican Unicorn Mantis from 2008.  We suspect the two genera were observed after we created that link nine years ago.  We will update that posting based on the new information we have learned thanks to your submission.

Letter 6 – Baby Mantids: Species Unknown

 

baby mantids!
Fri, Feb 20, 2009 at 6:40 AM
Hello, bugman! My baby mantids are finally large enough to take a decent photo of. My grandmother brought this egg case back from Maryland to Florida while on vacation and it hatched. Is it safe to release these babies into the woods here in Florida, or would they be invasive? I think my husband is tired of me keeping them in a box on the kitchen table. Thanks!
Kelly
Panama City, Florida via Easton, Maryland

Mantid Hatchlings
Mantid Hatchlings

Hi Kelly,
It usually isn’t a very good idea to transport insects from one location to another. With that said, many of the Mantis species in the eastern U.S. are already non-native, like the Chinese Mantis, Tenodera aridifolia sinensis and the European Mantis, Mantis religiosa. Those two species are also frequently sold as ootheca, the foamy egg sac, so that home gardeners can use natural methods to control harmful insects instead of using pesticides. Interestingly, Mantids are not particular about the insects they eat, and they frequently feed on pollinating insects like bees and butterflies. We doubt that your baby Mantids would be happy in the woods. The garden or a meadow would be more to their liking.

Mantid Hatchlings
Mantid Hatchlings

Letter 7 – Bark Mantis from Bolivia

 

Subject: Why does this insect have a tongue?
Location: Beni, Bolivia
February 19, 2014 8:57 pm
Hi bugman,
I’ve never seen another bug like this one. It was in Bolivia, in the Beni province, near the Beni River outside of the town of Rurrenabaque. I think it was April or May at the time.
Signature: Bill

Mantis
Bark Mantis

Dear Bill,
This is some species of Mantis, and we hope to be able to provide you with a more definitive identification regarding is genus or species.  We have to confess that we are not that skilled in insect anatomy, but we did a bit of research.  A general breakdown of the mouthparts of an insect can be found on Insect Identification for the Casual Observer and the tongue is not mentioned.  We are speculating that the pink organ you are referring to is either the mandible or the maxillae. Insect Identification for the Casual Observer provides the following definitions:  “Mandibles These are hard jaws meant for gripping and biting, most often found on insects like ants” and “Maxillae Secondary jaws, usually past the primary jaws for further destruction of the prey.”  According to the University of Kentucky Entomology site:  “Mantids also have chewing mouthparts.”  Since your individual does not have wings, we are guessing it is an immature specimen and it resembles this Bark Mantis in the genus
 Liturgusa that is pictured on FlickR.  Images from Honduras on American Insects supports that identification.

Bark Mantis
Bark Mantis

 

Letter 8 – Boxer Mantis: Acanthops species

 

Subject: Bug identification
Location: Trinidad and Tobago
December 11, 2013 7:36 am
Hi,
I am trying to identify what this insect is. I live in the Caura valley and get to view some really unusual looking insects
Signature: Frank

Black Leaf Mantis
Boxer Mantis

Dear Frank,
We spent some time this morning researching this Mantis, and we did identify it as a Black Leaf Mantis,
Pseudacanthops caelebs.  The first photo we encountered that looked like it was on FYeahMantodea, but alas, it was not identified.  The second photo we found was on FelinePress, but again, it was not identified, but the location was Peru.  We learned the name, Pseudacanthops caelebs, on Project Noah.  The last image we located was on FlickR.

Correction:  January 11, 2014
Dracus provided a comment indicating that this is an
Acanthops species.  A drawing on Web of Life and images on a UC Irvine Natural History site support that identification.  The common name Boxer Mantis is also provided.

Letter 9 – Bordered Mantis, we believe

 

Subject: California Mantis?
Location: Silver Lake, CA 90039
July 20, 2015 4:04 pm
Hi Daniel,
Found an almost 4″ Mantis hanging out upside down, under one of the patio umbrellas in a shady part of the backyard. It was a very hot sunny morning.
Her body was very thick and wide. Never seen one like this before. But looking at your site & Bug Guide, it looks like California Mantis.
She seemed to be grooming herself while I struggled to get a good shot of her. She seemed very diva-esque, posing and everything. If this is what laid the eggs in the ootheca on our wood fence (which you identified a few months ago), I totally believe it based on her girth!
See all our mantids: http://redcarproperty.blogspot.com/search/label/Praying%20Mantis
Signature: Diane E

Stagmomantis limbata, we believe
Stagmomantis limbata, we believe

Hi Diane,
We actually believe this to be a different native mantis in the same genus as the California Mantis.  This looks more like the Bordered Mantis,
Stagmomantis limbata, based on this BugGuide image.  According to BugGuide, the female Bordered Mantis is a:  “Moderately large Mantid. Facial plate (below and between antennae) about twice as wide as long (as for genus), eyes not as protruding as in Carolina Mantid. Females most often fairly plain green (often yellowish abdomen), but sometimes gray, or light brown, with dark spot in middle of tegmina. Tegmina do not completely cover wide abdomen. Hind wings checkered or striped yellow. Blue upper lip more pronounced in females, brighter in green forms and darker in brown forms.”  Now we are having some doubts that we might have misidentified some California Mantids from Mount Washingting because BugGuide states that the California Mantis:  “Generally favors drier areas than related species that might be found with it. Often found with or near S. limbata and difficult to separate from it without looking at wings or abdomen of male. Generally S. californica is very slightly smaller and more slender, on average.”  At this time, sorting out the two may take a real expert.

Stagmomantis limbata we believe
Stagmomantis limbata we believe

Letter 10 – Boxer Bark Mantid from Australia

 

Is it a mantid of some sort
Hi Bugman
Interesting website, have already used it to identify the mantis ootheca shells around the outside of the house. We leave in Perth, Western Australia Now we have stumbled across a strange insect that has a boxing action with it’s front legs and the tail end of a mantid (?) and it’s about 8-9 mm in length. It appears to walk everywhere. I’ve attached a photo of the insect, can you help identify it please. Regards
Gillian and Will

Hi Gillian and Will,
This is a Boxer Bark Mantid in the genus Paraoxypilus and family Amorphoscelidae. We located it on Geocities. Females are wingless, so your specimen is either a female or an immature nymph. The boxing behavior you mention gave rise to the common name.

Letter 11 – Brazilian Mantis

 

can you identify these?
We have a farm in Northeastern Brazil . You would not believe the insects we have. I must have close to 150 pictures of insects I have found. Just this may, I encountered these two beautiful guys. Do you know what they are?
Thanks!
Tatiana Peebles

Hi Tatiana,
One of your photos is some species of Mantis that is unknown to us. The other is a Hemipteran, also species unknown to us. Thanks for the exotica.

Update: (06/08/2007)
Brazilian Mantis
Hi there! Really love your site, and was just reading through your mantis section. I think I might be able to help with the ID on the mantis in the photo under the title “Brazilian Mantis”. I keep a couple of species, and this one is very similar to one of mine. I believe the mantis in the photo is a Sybilla species, perhaps Sybilla dorsolosa. I raise Sybilla pretiosa at the moment. http://ttwebbase.dyndns.org /mantid/view/65.html
http://ttwebbase.dyndns.org /mantid/view/77.html Hope there’s some useful info there! Thanks for the website!
Ed Taylor

Letter 12 – Brunner's Mantis

 

mantis
Hi Bugman,
We found this mantis in our garage on 9/28/05. Can you tell us what type of manits this is?
Thank You
Christa
Oklahoma City

Hi Christina,
We needed to check with Eric Eaton to be sure and this is his response: “Looks like another Brunner’s mantis, but a female this time(?). Another nice shot we could use on Bugguide. Eric ” We would like to ask your permission to post this on BugGuide as well, as per Eric’s request.

Letter 13 – Brunner's Mantis

 

Can you ID this mantid?
Hi,
I found this today(9-23-05) at work. When I first saw it, I was about 11 feet away from it, I thought it was a walking stick. I approached it and started to pick it up when it raised its head and I saw that it wasn’t a walking stick. I have never seen any mantid like it. I have lived in IN 33 yrs and now reside in SC(lived here going on 2 yrs). I have been coming to SC all my life and never even seen a mantid like this. It’s about 7" long and thin. I’m sending 3 pics to help with identifying. Thanks,
Steven

Hi Steven,
At first we believed this was a Grass Mantid in the genus Thesprotia. They are found in the south and often confused for Walkingsticks. WE weren’t totally convinced so we contacted Eric Eaton. Here is his positive identification: “Cool! The image is of a Brunner’s Mantis, Brunneria borealis, and it is a female (males are unknown for this species). It ranges from North Carolina to Texas. Thank goodness I have a copy of “How to Know the Grasshoppers, Cockroaches and Their Allies,” 2nd Ed., by Jacques Helfer (Wm. C. Brown Co. Publishers). I could not have ID’d this critter otherwise. If submitter would care to post this to BugGuide.net, it would be a new genus and species for the site, helping other folks ID their own finds. Eric”

Letter 14 – Bug of the Month January 2018: Agile Ground Mantid

 

Subject:  Small non-flying mantid in the Oregon high desert
Geographic location of the bug:  Ochoco National Forest, Oregon, USA
Date: 12/30/2017
Time: 07:17 PM EDT
Greetings,
I found this mantid about an hour after the Great American Eclipse ended (mid-day) on August 21st, 2017. The location was the Oregon Star Party in the Ochoco National Forest, Oregon, USA at 44.298775°N 120.141648°W. The altitude was about 5,000 ft and the terrain was the high desert of central Oregon (open rocky area surrounded by forest).
The mantid did not fly. It skittered along the ground very quickly and was difficult to keep up with. I have been unable to find any information on a mantid that lives in the high desert of Oregon. As you can see it was very small. Maybe an inch long.
Thank you!
(I got an “entity too large” the first time I submitted this so here we go with cropped pics)
How you want your letter signed:  Tommy

Agile Ground Mantid

Dear Tommy,
Based on this BugGuide image, we are quite confident that this is a Ground Mantid in the genus
Litaneutria, and according to BugGuide, they are “Less than 35mm long.”  Of the species Litaneutria minor, BugGuide notes:  “In Canada: known only from the dry grasslands of British Columbia in the extreme southern Okanagan Valley near Oliver and Osoyoos.  In the U.S.: widespread; from Colorado and Arizona to Mexico, northwest to California, north to Dakota, and occasionally to Texas.”  BugGuide also recognizes:  “Very difficult to capture.”  The species is pictured on the Electronic Atlas of the Wildlife of British Columbia.  According to Good Garden Bugs:  “Ground mantids are unique in that instead of adopting the typical sit-and-wait predatory strategy of most mantids, these active hunters stalk their prey on the ground. … Litaneutria minor is commonly called the agile ground mantid because they can be found running swiftly along the ground in search of prey.  They are found in the sesert southwest, eastern California, Oregon and Washington and are 3/4 tp 1 1/4 inches (2 to 3 cm) in length.  They are also found in southwestern Canada and are the only native Canadian mantid.”  This is not only our first posting of the New Year, we are also making it the Bug of the Month for January 2018.

Agile Ground Mantid

Letter 15 – Careful Mister, She's a Man Eater: Mating Preying Mantids

 

Praying Mantis mating
I took this picture two weeks ago in Port Elgin Ontario, I haven’t seen a better one on the internet, enjoy.
Sean J. Patrick Bates

Hi Sean,
We agree your photo is “Aces” and are proud to post it.

Letter 16 – Careful Mister, She's a Man Eater

 

Praying Mantis mating
I took this picture two weeks ago in Port Elgin Ontario, I haven’t seen a better one on the internet, enjoy.
Sean J. Patrick Bates

Hi Sean,
We agree your photo is “Aces” and are proud to post it.

Letter 17 – Dead Leaf Mantis from Panama

 

Subject:  Praying Mantis idenrification
Geographic location of the bug:  Panama Oeste, Panama in the mountsins
Date: 05/10/2019
Time: 03:11 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Please, I saw this praying mantis in the hills of west panama near campana national park. I was a peace corps volunteer there and go back often. Thank you!
How you want your letter signed:  Rachel Calmas

Dead Leaf Mantis

Dear Rachel,
That bright pink abdomen is surely distinctive, and it greatly contrasts the dried leaf camouflage that this Mantis sports.  We quickly located images of a Dead Leaf Mantis,
Acanthops falcata, on Alamy, but alas, the image does not show the pink abdomen.  This image on Photo Net beautifully illustrates the pink coloration on the abdomen.

Dead Leaf Mantis
Yes! That’s the mantis. You were not able to identify what specific type?
Thank you for trying.
Warmly,
Rachel
Hi again Rachel,
We don’t understand your response.  What is nonspecific about the species name Acanthops falcata?  How much more specific would you like us to get? 
Hi Daniel,
Thank you! I apologize that I misread you original email. When you said the image on Almay did not show the pink abdomen I thought you were stating it was not a match. I’m delighted to know species name. It is a beautiful mantis.
With much appreciation,
Rachel

Letter 18 – Desert Mantis from Jordan

 

Subject:  Katydid, Cricket or Alien?
Geographic location of the bug:  South west Jordan, Middle East
Date: 11/12/2019
Time: 06:04 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I have trawled the net to identify this bug I photographed on October 14 this year without result, can you assist please.
Insect was about 1″ long, in dry stony desert habitat.
Not perfect photos due to high ISO as getting dark.
How you want your letter signed:  Paul Lathbury, Nuneaton, U.K.

Desert Mantis: Eremiaphila species

Dear Paul,
This fascinating insect looked to us like a Mantid, and we located this unidentified, similar looking individual in
this Smithsonian posting.  We feel confident it is in the genus Eremiaphila after visiting Mantids and More .  On USMantis we learned:  “RARE AND UNUSUAL DESERT MANTIS Requires hot dry environment. The desert mantis is able to camouflage so well into its habitat. They live molt and lay ooths in the sand. They thrive in the most unforgivable environment in the desert where temperatures reach well over 100F and extremely dry.

Desert Mantis: Eremiaphila species

Hi Daniel,
That’s great thanks. I agree with your identification now that I have a reference to search on. I did see the Smithsonian posting and it is extremely similar.
Thanks again,
Regards,
Paul.

Letter 19 – Bug of the Month February 2019: Lichen Mimic Mantid

 

Subject:  bug on a lichen
Geographic location of the bug:  Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk, Naples FL
Date: 02/01/2019
Time: 09:16 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  This bug was about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inch big, just attached to the lichen. I found this about 11 a.m, and it was still there when I came back probably about 1 hr. later, and it showed no signs of life. I’m sure I was the only one who ever saw this, and I did show it to a family.
How you want your letter signed:  Sylvia

Lichen Mimic Mantid

WOW Sylvia,
We have no shortage of images of Lichen Mimic Mantids or Grizzled Mantids on our site and there are even a few that show them perfectly camouflaged against bark or lichens, but we have never seen a Lichen Mimic Mantid image more impressive than yours, not the least characteristic of which is the white color of the Mantid.  This is the whitest individual we could locate on BugGuide and it appears about a zone darker than the individual in your image.  We have never had the pleasure of observing Lichen Mimic Mantids in nature, but our own experience with California Mantids leads us to believe she is going to stay on that white patch where she blends in perfectly.  Like the California Mantis female, the Lichen Mimic Mantid female is flightless, and both are much more likely to remain in the same place if the hunting is good while the winged male is much more mobile, a good attribute since the male seeks out the female.  Though we already selected a Bug of the Month February 2019, since your submission arrived on the first of the month, we have no problem designating it as Bug of the Month February 2019 as well.

Letter 20 – Conehead Mantis from France

 

Subject: Preying Mantis?
Location: Lorgues, South France
June 8, 2016 3:32 am
Hi,
We took this photo of a preying mantis? In south of France last week, beg of June, it was attracted to a garden light in a boules area but the garden was in Provence and surrounded by lots of scrub land. Can you identify it? It had its wings out but fluttered about it didn’t really fly.
I am including a second photo of a really pretty moth same location too! Because it’s so cool!
Signature: Many Thanks Ali and Richard

Mantis
Conehead Mantis

Dear Ali and Richard,
We just returned to the office after a short holiday, and though we opened your email over a week ago and did some preliminary research, we did not identify your Mantis species.  We will continue to research the matter, but we will be posting it as unidentified until we have more time to research.  We have over a week of identification requests to begin sorting through.  We believe this may be a Conehead Mantis in the family Empusidae based on images posted to BioDiversity Explorer where it states:  “Empusids are slender and are identified by the spines on their protibia which have alternatively one long spine and two to four shorter spines. They also have leaf-like lobes on the femora. The antennae of the males are elongate and doubly pectinate (comb-like) rather than thin and bare as usually found in the mantids. The Empusidae is made up of eight genera with a small number of species scattered across Africa, the Mediterranean region and Asia.”  According to El Mirador del Sol:  “The mantis in the photo is Empusa Pennata, common names conehead mantis in English and mantis palo in Spanish, is a species of praying mantis in genus Empusa. It can be found in Spain and parts of Portugal, France, Lebanon,Central and Southern Italy and Greece.”

Wow that’s amazing I could not find it anywhere! Thank you so much, it looks great in the professional photos I am so pleased we took the photo and followed it up.
Thank You.
Best Wishes
Ali and Richard.

 

Letter 21 – Arizona Unicorn Mantis

 

Mantis
Wed, Dec 31, 2008 at 12:15 PM
Greetings, this perfect little creature was encountered in Southeast Az in September.
Crowfriend
Chiricahua Mountains

Mexican Unicorn Mantis
Arizona Unicorn Mantis

Dear Crowfriend,
This positively delightful mantis is a Mexican Unicorn Mantis, Phyllovates chlorophaea.  According to BugGuide, it is a rare native species.  BugGuide reports sightings from Arizona and Texas.  BugGuide also indicates:  “This species is becoming popular among captive breeding enthusiasts, not only for its distinctive appearance and large size, but also because its preference for smaller prey means that cannibalism is much rarer than in most other mantid species. Captives have been reported using a defensive posture in which they raise the forelimbs, spread the wings, and expose the brightly marked abdomen.”  This represents a new species for our site, which always excites us.  We are also quite impressed with the quality of your photograph, the details of the specimen that are visible, and the wonderful facial expression you have captured.

Update:  August 22, 2017
We just received a new submission that brought this nine year old posting to our attention.  We suspect that since we created this posting, there has been a taxonomic change or that BugGuide realized that there were two species of Unicorn Mantids in different genera in the southern portion of the U.S. which is causing us to now link to the Arizona Unicorn Mantis on BugGuide.

Letter 22 – Dead Leaf Mantis or Boxer Mantis from Panama

 

Dead-Leaf Mantis
Thu, Dec 18, 2008 at 5:49 PM
This insect was found in Panama, deep in the jungle near the border of Colombia. We think it may be some kind of dead-leaf mantis. Can anyone help us out? Thanks!
Curious
Panama

Unknown Mantis from Panama
Unknown Mantis from Panama

Dear Curious,
While we cannot take the time right now to properly identify your mantis because we have to rush out to give a final examination, we hope one of our faithful readers can assist in the identification of this well camouflaged specimen. Hopefully, when the semester ends, we will be able to devote a bit more time to the identification process.

Update: Wed, Feb 4, 2009 at 2:33 PM
Hi Daniel:
This looks like Acanthops falcata. It is primarily a South American Species, but does occur in Panama (officially) and apparently as far north as Honduras. Common names appear to be (South American) Dead Leaf Mantis and Boxer Mantis, but both of these names are also used for other mantis species in other places. Both sexes have wings but the females are flightless. The photo by ‘Curious’ is probably a male. Regards.
Karl
Links: http://nathistoc.bio.uci.edu/Honduras/Orthoptera/Acanthops.htm
http://godofinsects.com/museum/display.php?sid=1631

Letter 23 – Cone Head Mantis from Macedonia

 

Insect
Sunday, Feb 8, 2009 at 3:48 PM
I found this insect between branches and grass. It was moving very slow and just like a spider it was able to walk on wall and similar vertical places. I would like to know what type of insect it is, because I have never seen anything like this.
Monika
Skopje, Macednia

Questionable Mantis from Macedonia
Mantis from Macedonia

Hi Monika,
Your insect is some species of Mantis. First we needed to do a web search on your location, and now know that Skopje is in Macedonia. We thought your insect resembled an immature Wandering Violin Mantis, Gongylus gongylodes, but the information we have been able to locate indicates that species ranges in India and Sri Lanka, but that it is a popular pet species. We have not had any luck identifying a native Macedonian Mantis that resembles your specimen, and we have concluded that there are two possibilities regarding your species’ identification. Either it is native to Macedonia and possibly a close relative of Gongylus gongylodes, or it is an accidentally escaped or released pet specimen. Hopefully, one of our readers may be able to provide a more concrete identification.

Questionable Mantis from Macedonia
Mantis from Macedonia

Update: from Eric Eaton
Daniel:
Have no idea on the mantid. They just aren’t my “thing….” I know there is at least one “mantis forum” bulletin board out there, so you might try them.
Eric

Update: Monday, February 6, 2009
Hi Daniel:
I believe this is Empusa fasciata. If go to the CamelPhoto.com forum there several wonderful pictures of a sub-adult photographed in Thessaloniki, Macedonia that looks like an exact match. Regards.
Karl

Thanks KArl,
The TrekNature Website calls this the Cone Head Mantis.

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: Praying Mantis

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