Praying Mantis Life Cycle: Fascinating Facts and Insights

Praying mantises are fascinating insects, known for their distinctive appearance and predatory nature. Their life cycle is relatively simple, beginning when the female lays an egg mass called an ootheca, a foam-like structure that hardens and can contain over 200 eggs ^.

These intriguing creatures vary in size, usually measuring between 2 to 5 inches long^. Mantises come in a range of colors, including brown, green, and yellowish shades, adapting to their environment. They hatch in spring and continue to grow and develop throughout the season before typically reaching adulthood by the end of summer^.

Praying Mantis Life Cycle Stages

Egg Stage

The life cycle of a praying mantis begins with the female laying an egg mass called an ootheca. This foamy structure hardens into a protective case that holds around 200 or more eggs. The egg case can survive frost and overwinter.

Nymph Stage

After hatching, praying mantises enter the nymph stage. In this stage, they resemble smaller wingless adults. Nymphs shed their skin several times as they grow.

Adult Stage

Finally, praying mantises reach adulthood. Adults can be 2 to 5 inches long and come in various colors like brown, green, or yellowish. Their front wings are leathery and narrow.

Comparison of Life Stages:

Life Stage Attributes Example
Egg Stage – Egg mass called ootheca
– Protective case
Overwintering egg case
Nymph Stage – Resemble smaller wingless adults
– Shed skin
Praying mantis during growth
Adult Stage – 2 to 5 inches long
– Brown, green or yellowish
Fully grown praying mantis

Key Characteristics of Praying Mantis Life Cycle:

  • Starts with egg stage (ootheca)
  • Nymphs resemble smaller wingless adults
  • Adults have leathery, narrow wings

Physical Characteristics and Adaptations

Body Structure

Praying mantises have a distinct body structure, characterized by a triangular head, a long, slender body, and an elongated thorax. They possess compound eyes and antennae 1. Their exoskeleton serves as a protective skin that they shed periodically through a process called molting 2.

Front Legs

Mantids are known for their powerful front legs, which they use for grasping prey. Their legs are adapted for hunting, with sharp spines and a strong grip, allowing them to catch and hold onto various insects effectively 3.


Adult praying mantises have wings that vary in size and shape depending on the species. Some mantids have fully developed wings, while others may have shorter or absent wings. However, not all mantids are adept flyers 4.

Coloration and Camouflage

Mantids exhibit a range of colors, including green, brown, and yellowish hues. These colors often serve as camouflage, allowing them to blend in with their surroundings and ambush their prey 5. Examples of effective camouflage include mantids resembling leaves or tree bark.

Characteristic Benefits Drawbacks
Triangular Head Allows for a wider range of vision, easier to locate prey N/A
Powerful Front Legs Effective for catching and holding prey N/A
Camouflage Blends in with surroundings, making it easier to ambush prey Limited to certain habitats and surroundings, such as green mantids in a brown environment
  • Body structure attributes:
    • Triangular head
    • Elongated thorax
    • Exoskeleton
    • Compound eyes
    • Antennae
  • Coloration variations:
    • Green
    • Brown
    • Yellowish

Behavior and Hunting Techniques

Ambush Predation

Praying mantises are well-known for their ambush predation tactics. They rely on camouflage, taking on the appearance of leaves and sticks to blend into their surroundings 1. This allows them to patiently survey the environment and wait for prey to come near. When the opportunity arises, they swiftly capture their target using their specially adapted front legs, which are lined with spikes for better grip 2.

Prey Selection

Mantids are not picky when it comes to selecting their prey. They are carnivorous insects that prey on various types of insects and even small vertebrates4. For instance, some common targets include:

  • Flies
  • Crickets
  • Grasshoppers
  • Small birds (in rare cases)

Feeding Habits

Once the mantid has captured its prey, it starts feeding. Praying mantises consume their prey alive, often beginning with the head5. They use their strong, sharp mandibles to tear apart their meal. The feeding process can take several minutes to hours, depending on the size of the prey.

Comparison of Praying Mantis and other Predatory Insects:

Feature Praying Mantis Other Predatory Insects
Hunting Technique Ambush Varies (some also ambush, others actively hunt)
Camouflage Resembles leaves and sticks Varies (some also use camouflage, others do not)
Prey Type Insects and small vertebrates Depends on specific insect (some specialize, others consume a variety)
Feeding Habits Consumes prey alive, starting with the head Varies (some consume prey alive, others inject digestive enzymes and consume liquefied insides)

Reproduction and Lifespan

Mating Process

Praying mantises usually mate in the fall. The male approaches the female and then mounts her. The male transfers sperm to the female through a process called spermatophore. This ensures fertilization of her eggs.

Ootheca Formation and Hatching

After mating, the female praying mantis produces a frothy liquid to create the ootheca, an egg case that protects the eggs from predators and environmental threats. Some interesting points about ootheca are:

  • Contains 200 or more eggs
  • Hardens into a styrofoam-like structure
  • Overwinters and survives frost

The eggs hatch into nymphs in spring, and these nymphs resemble miniature wingless adult mantises.

Lifespan and Molting

Praying mantises have a short life span, usually living less than a year. Molting is a critical part of their life cycle:

  • Nymphs molt several times before becoming adults
  • Molting allows for growth
  • Occurs in stages throughout life
Praying Mantis Comparison Invertebrates
Life span <1 year Varies
Reproduction Sexual: External Sexual/Internal/Both
Body Structure Elongate Diverse
  • Distinct features of praying mantis:

    • Predatory insects
    • Can turn head more than 180 degrees
    • Front limbs adapted for catching prey
  • Characteristics of invertebrates:

    • No backbone
    • Majority are insects
    • Diverse group of species

Environmental Roles and Interactions

Predators and Threats

Praying mantises are vulnerable to a variety of predators, such as spiders, frogs, and lizards. Some larger predators, like birds and bats, also prey on mantids. However, mantises are skilled hunters and use their raptorial front legs for catching and holding their prey.

They can sometimes even capture predators of their own size, making them both predator and prey in the ecosystem.

Ecosystem Impacts

In their role as predators, praying mantises have some beneficial impacts on the ecosystem. They help control the population of various pests, including:

  • Aphids
  • Flies
  • Caterpillars

This biological control service can be advantageous for crop management, reducing the need for pesticides.

Relationship with Humans

Farmers and gardeners often appreciate the presence of praying mantises in their fields and gardens. As a beneficial insect, mantises can help control pests that may damage crops. However, they are generalist predators and may also consume some beneficial insects, which can be a concern in some situations.

Here is a comparison table showing some pros and cons of having praying mantises in gardens or farms:

Pros Cons
Controls populations of pest insects May also prey on beneficial insects
Reduces the need for pesticides Can sometimes be cannibalistic
Fascinating insect with unique behavior May cause distress to some people

In conclusion, praying mantises play a significant role in the ecosystem as predators, helping keep pest populations under control. They are generally considered beneficial for farmers and gardeners, but they can also cause some issues by preying on other helpful insects.

Habitats and Distribution

Geographical Range

Praying mantis species have a wide geographical range. Some commonly seen species like the Chinese mantis, narrow-winged mantis, and European mantis are introduced species. The Carolina mantis is a common native species in the southern United States.

Common Habitats

These fascinating insects can be found in various habitats. They typically reside on leaves, plants, and plant stems. Praying mantises use their ability to blend in with their surroundings, which makes them difficult to spot. This camouflage helps them hunt more efficiently.

  • Leaves: Praying mantises often sit on leaves waiting for prey, their coloration allowing them to blend in.
  • Plants: Some species can have all 3 color phases (brown, green, yellow), like the California mantid, allowing them to hide on various plants.
  • Plant stems and twigs: Egg clusters or ootheca can be found attached to small branches and twigs, where the eggs overwinter.
Habitat Example Species Notes
Leaves Carolina mantis Camouflage on leaves
Plants California mantid 3 color phases (brown, green, yellow)
Twigs N/A Egg clusters attached to small branches

Praying mantises possess a unique ability to swivel their heads up to 180 degrees. This allows them to scan their surroundings more effectively, increasing their chances of catching prey. Overall, these impressive insects have adapted well to various habitats, making them both successful predators and fascinating creatures to observe.

Variety of Praying Mantis Species

Chinese Mantis

The Chinese Mantis (Tenodera sinensis) is known for:

  • Being a large species, reaching up to 5 inches in length
  • Its distinct, long, brown or green body

It’s native to Asia but is commonly found in North America due to its introduction as a pest control method.

European Mantis

The European Mantis (Mantis religiosa) is recognized by:

  • Its size, typically around 2-3 inches
  • Green or brown coloration with a white spot on the forewings

This species can be found in Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia.

Carolina Mantis

The Carolina Mantis (Stagmomantis carolina) is a smaller species and has:

  • A size of about 2 inches
  • A well-camouflaged green or brown color

It is native to the southeastern United States and parts of Mexico.

Flower Mantis

Flower mantises are known for their striking appearance, such as:

  • Brilliant colors and patterns that mimic flowers
  • Size varies depending on the species

They inhabit tropical regions, notably Southeast Asia and Africa.

Species Size Color Native Habitat
Chinese Mantis 5 inches Brown or green Asia, introduced to N. America
European Mantis 2-3 inches Green or brown Europe, Africa, parts of Asia
Carolina Mantis 2 inches Green or brown Southeastern U.S., Mexico
Flower Mantis Varies Mimic flowers Tropical regions


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Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, 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 – Mantis Hatchling


Subject: Tiny praying mantis?
Location: Pennsylvania
February 6, 2017 2:49 pm
I found this little guy in my university greenhouse, so the geographic location might not be relevant since it’s usually hot and humid in the greenhouse. He looks and acts like a praying mantis, however he is really tiny and grey! Please help
Signature: -J.D

Mantis Hatchling

Dear J.D,
This is indeed a Mantis hatchling.  When California Mantids hatch in our yard, they are about 1/4 inch long.

Letter 2 – Mantis Hatchling


Subject: Small California Mantis?
Location: Los Angeles, CA
April 2, 2017 1:02 pm
Dear Bugman,
I thought I would share this picture of a very tiny California Mantis (I think!) that was on my flowerpot in Highland Park a few days ago. For scale, the lip of the pot is a little less than 1cm.
I was lucky to be able to get close!
Thanks so much for your wonderful site!
Signature: Moira

Newly hatched, probably California Mantis

Dear Moira,
This is definitely a Mantis, and we suspect it might be a hatchling California Mantis as we recently saw a hatchling in our own garden.  Other Mantids found in Los Angeles might be imported European or Chinese Mantids, and those species are much larger than our native species.  Were you by chance, in the past, the secretary of a homeowners alliance to which we belong?

Dear Bugman,
Thank you so much for the ID and for posting my photo!
By the way, no, I was not the secretary of the homeowners
alliance. (I’m a theatre professor and a puppeteer.)
Again, many thanks! Yours is one of my favorite sites to visit.

Letter 3 – Mantis Hatchlings


Baby Mantids
Hi Bugman!
I spotted this wonderful phenomena yesterday in our backyard and took pictures – just hatched baby praying mantids! I wanted more information about what they eat and found your wonderful website. I noticed you have plenty of adult pictures and egg casings, so I thought you may appreciate some baby pictures. I spotted what I believe was probably mum about 3 weeks ago. She was brown and about 20cm long. I am hoping these babies hatched in the right season. We are in autumn now in Australia – will they be okay? Regards,
(Perth, Western Australia)

Hi Renae,
Thanks for the great photo. As long as you don’t get snow, and we don’t believe you get snow, the young mantids should be fine.

Letter 4 – Mantis Hatchlings


Dear Bugman,
My daughter found a cocoon-looking thing attached to some twigs this past winter. She brought it in and I pinned it to our bulletin board. I homeschool here in Michigan and thought it would be interesting to see if something "hatched" from it. Well, this morning we found tiny bugs that looked like miniature preying mantises on the cocoon. We were wondering what we should do with them now. It is still pretty cold here at night and the temperature only reaches the low 60’s on nice days. Is it too cold for them out side? Can we keep them indoors and wait till it gets warmer? What should we feed them?
The Tripp family

Hi Tripps,
Your newly hatched Mantids are a treat. They will begin to eat each other if they don’t have room to escape. If it is not freezing, you should release them.

Letter 5 – Mantis Hatchlings


Subject: Preying Mantis
July 6, 2014 4:17 pm
A friend opened a pool side umbrella and says many, many tiny preying mantis scurried out from inside the umbrella.  Could this be possible?  Where are the eggs typically laid?  I have seen adult preying mantis in my holly bush but it is a distance from the swimming pool umbrella.  I searched “The Curious World of Bugs” but could not find any information.
Signature: Kris Dorka

Mantis Ootheca Hatching
Mantis Ootheca Hatching (from our archive)

Dear Kris Dorka,
Are you my Aunt?  You did not provide a location for the sighting.  Preying Mantids lay eggs in a frothy mass known as an Ootheca, and once the mass hardens, it provides insulation and other protection for the eggs it contains.  Each Ootheca can have several hundred eggs, and when it is time for the hatchlings to emerge, they erupt from the ootheca.  Mom is coming to visit in August, but we haven’t determined a date yet.  I’m looking forward to the Hungarian Wax Peppers she usually brings me.  She often sends a box or two when they are in season as well.  I’ve occasionally found them in Los Angeles, but they don’t taste the
P.S.  If we are related, I will send my personal email address which gets much less mail than What’s That Bug?

Letter 6 – Mantis Head Shot


Praying Mantis photo
Really enjoy your website and thought I’d pass along this praying mantis photo, I took in Pennsylvania.
Santa Fe, NM

Nice close-up Bob.

Letter 7 – Mantis Headshot


Photogenic Mantis!
Hi gang! I just wanted to share these pictures with you of this great little Praying Mantis that popped by for a visit. He was about as friendly as could be and loved to play with my two boys for about 30 minutes. He would fly from one to the other like he was purposely sharing his time with each of them, it was great. I was able to snap a few photos of him and he just seemed to know what I was doing. As you can see in the photos, he looked right at me as if he was posing. If he had teeth, I’m sure I would have seen a smile! I hope you will post these on you web site for others to enjoy. Thanks a bunch.
Mike from So. Cal Orange County

Hi Mike,
We hope you don’t mind that we took your awesome photo and cropped it to a tight headshot.

Letter 8 – Mantis in California


Stagmomantis Californica up close.
November 8, 2009
Hey WTB! I thought you might enjoy a couple pictures of this Mantid (which I’m quite sure is a Stagmomantis Californica, please correct me if I’m wrong) perched on a creosote branch.
Michael G.
Southern California, Coachella Valley.

Mantis, but what species???
Mantis, but what species???

Hi Michael,
Your photos are great.  We aren’t certain that this is a Stagomantis.  Perhaps one of our readers can supply a definitive identification.

Letter 9 – Mantis in defensive posture


is this a mantis
I never saw the butterfly type wings like this before??

Hi John,
Very impressive image of a Mantis in a defensive pose. This is definitely the “don’t mess with me” look.

Letter 10 – Mantis in Threat Position


Miffed Mantis
Location: Houston
January 25, 2011 11:53 am
I would like to start by saying that I first discovered your site in 2004 when tryng to identify a spider found in our backyard (turned out to be a green lynx feasting on a leaf footed bug)and your site helped to start and sustain our family as self described ”insect seekers” ever since. While I have not posted in quite a while, I still visit your site at least once a month (my son on the other hand still posts photos and questions quite frequently)
I found this guy (or gal) in my shed hanging out under my planting table. The dog seeed very interested in him, and not wanting my pooch to inadvertantly harm this fella, i shooed him (the mantis) out with a broom. Needless to say he was not happy with this sudden eviction. Once outside, he whips around, throws his arms up and makes this strange hiss-like sound (kinda freaked out the dog)so I go in, grab my camera, and poke at him trying to get him to do it again (with my ”brave” dog hiding behind me). He does, but this time gives me the added bonus of his colorful rear end. I decided to leave him be, I figure I wouldn’t be happy if someone had rudely evicted me either. He hung around the door for the next couple hours, then after i had gone inside for lunch, came back out and he had decided to take back his home under my bench. That was 3 monthes ago, and he is still there! We live in Katy tx, a suburb of Houston so the climate is not too bad in the wi nter, plus my shed is heated. I don’t bother him, he doesn’t bother me, and my dog is a real weenie, so we all get along just fine.
Thanks for putting up with my long winded letter, and thanks also for helping teach us that just because some of earths creatures are smaller than us, doesn’t mean they are any less significant.
Signature: Tony F

Mantis in Threat Posture

Dear Tony,
Thanks so much for your passionate missive.  We love hearing about our reader’s fascination with bugs.  Try as we might, we are having difficulty identifying this mantis in this awesome threat posture.  This pose is characteristic of the Mediterranean Mantis,
Iris oratoria, but if you compare the images on BugGuide to your photo, you see that the wing markings are different and that dark spot on the ventral surface between the raptoreal front legs of your specimen is not visible in this BugGuide photo.  Your specimen is also quite different from this California Mantis pictured on BugGuide,  but the upper wings are patterned similarly to this closely related Carolina Mantis, Stagmomantis carolina, pictured on BugGuide, and we wonder if perhaps that might be the correct species.  Your photo is quite wonderful and your interactions with this magnificent creature are quite heartwarming.

Letter 11 – Mantis Love


what’s the rating on your site R?
Love the sight, but glad I checked it out before my budding entomologist 6 year old. see here
maggots.html David’s letter is a bit out of the rating "range" of most of your other letters. I do have a few shots of Mantis bug love if you’d like see attached. I have more if you are interested.

Hi Leanne,
Your photos are pretty awesome. I sure hope they did not end in cannibalism, though that often happens to ensure that mother mantis is strong enough to lay eggs. In our defense, we do not consider our site R rated, but it is for mature audiences. We speak like adults and we do not edit our letters. In responding to letters, we remain polite, but love a good witticism. Also, between adults, we know that the mantids are not in love, but really having sex. We thought carefully about the name for our Bug Love page and decided against the word sex because we didn’t want to get barraged by junkmail from porn sites, performance enhancing drugs and physical endowment alternatives. In the general scheme of things, our site, despite the occasional use of profanity from a poor homemaker who is plagued by flies, does not contribute to the delinquency of a minor.

Letter 12 – Mantis Ootheca


Mantis Egg Sac?
I found your website by accident last year. I have used it many times to identify bugs in my perennial beds. It has become a great source of knowledge for me. I wanted to send you a picture that we took of what I believe is a preying mantis egg case. During the past few years, I have found more and more preying mantises on my plants. When I was cleaning up my landscaping and front porch this fall, I found this item on the front brick of my house. I remember see something similar on your website. However, I just wanted to get some type of confirmation from your team of experts. Thanks,
Patti Dussold
Florissant, MO

Hi Patti,
You are correct. This is a Mantis Ootheca. The hardened foam acts as an insulation against the inclement weather of winter and young mantids will hatch in the spring.

Letter 13 – Mantis Ootheca Hatches


Subject: Preying Mantis Ootheca hatched
Location: Ypsilanti, MI
May 22, 2013 2:03 pm
Hi there bug guys,
A few months ago I submitted a pic and you kindly replied that it was a Preying Mantis Ootheca. I kept checking the one surviving Ootheca and I was lucky enough to catch them hatching. I have some other shots w my cameras ( this is one from my iphone) but wanted to pass this along  Many many babies, yay!
Thank you again and I love your site
Signature: Rachel

Mantis Ootheca Hatches
Mantis Ootheca Hatches

Hi again Rachel,
How nice to hear your ootheca has hatched.  Just this past weekend we saw a tiny Mantis hatchling scuttling across the carob tree.  We have never found an Ootheca in the yard, but we find several California Mantids each year.  We are so happy our garden is home to native Mantids and not an invasive species.  Though organic gardeners often purchase commercially available Ootheca so that they can grow foods organically without pesticides, we feel that the larger and more aggressive species like the Chinese Mantids and European Mantids might displace smaller, less aggressive, native species.


Letter 14 – Mantis Photos


Thank you sir.
Location:  Sacramento, CA
October 10, 2012
I have an ardent fascination with insects after taken an Entomology 101 with Dr. Lynn Kimsey (of the Bohart Museum, UCD). After a few quarters later, I got bitten (hard) by the “Shutter Bug,” that I had to changed from Applied Physics/Microbiology to fashion photography.
I didn’t know about your site, until my “unofficial mentor” in Los Angeles—photographer Brooks Ayola—instructed me to seek out your assistance.
I attached my early photographs (taken around 2006), the mantids were my first “models” and great teachers of patience and elegance. I know they’re in order Mantodea, family Mantidae; I think the green ones are genus “Stagmomantis” in species “limbata”?
I found them in a garden in Sacramento.
Signature: Ronald Nyein Zaw Tan
+1 916 599 8956 / RONALDNZTAN.COM
Ronald Nyein Zaw Tan is a Los Angeles & San Francisco photographer, specializing in mens fashion, beauty, portraiture, and pet photography.


Hi Again Ronald,
We love your Preying Mantis photos.  They really are beautifully lit and composed and they look like fashion photographs.  The female does appear to be a
Stagmomantis species.  We are also happy we could assist in the Assassin Bug ID.

Female Stagmomantis

Immature Mantis

Immature Mantis


Letter 15 – Mantis Reproduction


Praying Mantis Laying Egg Sack
Hi, I love your site! We’re just crazy about bugs here at my house. Several years ago we started noticing praying mantis in our garden and have been captivated by them ever since. I keep a lively and fairly wild garden so they’ll have a happy habitat (they love butterfly bush, golden rod…. basically anything that attracts bugs for them to eat). Each year they delight us with something new. Two years ago we were lucky enough to spy one laying her egg sack and I was able to get a photo. So, I though I’d pass it along to your other praying mantis-loving viewers to see. I have a small garden in a city/suburban neighborhood and yet manage to keep a large (6-12 adults) mantis population. Thanks for all you do.

Hi Angel,
Thank you first for the compliment and second for the wonderful photograph. This is a first for us, Mantis egglaying.

Letter 16 – Mantis saved from ruffians


SAVED from a brutal death
As we left a local shopping mall, we saw a group of teenagers throwing rocks at the wall. As we approached (my wife’s a school teacher, so she’s always ready to stop mischief in its tracks), we realized that the kids were trying to hit a Mantis! We shooed the kids away, emptied the contents of a recent purchase from the box, and transported the Mantis to our garden (we’d prefer to leave bugs where they are, but I’m sure our garden in the country is better than a huge expanse of concrete in the city – especially one with rock-wielding cretins roaming around…). Once in the garden, when I went to take the photo, the Mantis looked back as if to say "thanks!". We are in Northwest Ohio. Enjoy!

Thank you for your wonderful story and sweet photo.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, 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 – Mantis Mating


dont know if you got this email before?
Hello Bugman,
I sent these back September 5, 05 but thought maybe you never got them as I have not heard anything so I thought id send them again, this time as a attachment. By the way your site is wonderful! Also I am pretty sure the spider is a golden Orb? We have Praying Mantis here every year and we just love them! I hate to see winter come and take them away, oh we are in Shinnston, WV. Anyway enjoy the pictures and if you can used any of them enjoy. Keep up the good work.

Hi Brian,
We love the mating Mantis photo. Sorry about not answering before, but it just isn’t possible to even read all the mail. Your spider that is being devoured is a Golden Orb Weaver. Awesome pair of images.


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. 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 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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1 thought on “Praying Mantis Life Cycle: Fascinating Facts and Insights”

  1. Looks to me like a sub-adult male iris oratoria(mediterranean mantis) The orange dot on the underside of the abdomin is a definitive mark for this species. This species was introduced to california in the 1930s.


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