Praying Mantis Male vs Female: Unveiling the Differences

Praying mantises are fascinating insects known for their distinctive appearance and predatory nature. One of the intriguing aspects of these insects is the difference in size, color, and behavior between male and female mantises.

Male and female praying mantises display variations in their physical attributes like size and wings. Females are generally larger and stouter, while males have a more slender build. For instance, the flightless Carolina female mantis has ¾ length wings, whereas the slender male flies well 1.

There are also some behavioral differences, especially during mating. The female emits a hormone when she is ready to mate, and the male cautiously approaches due to the risk of being mistaken as prey by the female 2. This complex interaction highlights the unique characteristics that differentiate male and female praying mantises.

Physical Differences Between Male and Female Praying Mantises

Body Size and Shape

  • Male praying mantises are generally smaller and more slender than their female counterparts.
  • Female mantises are larger and stouter, especially in the case of the Carolina mantis.

Antennae

  • Male mantises have longer and more delicate antennae.
  • Female mantises have shorter and thicker antennae.

Wings

  • Males typically have longer wings that extend beyond their abdomen, allowing them to fly well.
  • Females often have shorter wings, like in the case of the flightless Carolina mantis with ¾ length wings.

Color

  • Both male and female mantises can have various color phases, such as brown, green, or yellowish.
  • European mantis and Chinese mantis show color variations in both sexes.
Feature Male Praying Mantis Female Praying Mantis
Body Size Smaller, slender Larger, stouter
Antennae Longer, more delicate Shorter, thicker
Wings Longer, suitable for flight Shorter, often limited flight
Color Brown, green, yellowish (varies) Brown, green, yellowish (varies)

Behavioral Differences

Cannibalistic Behavior

Cannibalism is a well-known behavior in praying mantises, especially during mating. In some cases, the female mantis may consume her male partner after copulation. However, this is not always the case, and it has been found that males often escape after mating and can mate with multiple females.

Cannibalistic behavior is predominantly driven by the female’s nutritional needs and reproductive requirements.

Preying and Ambush Strategies

Praying mantises are skilled predators that primarily rely on ambush techniques to capture their prey. Both male and female mantises employ similar strategies:

  • Camouflaging themselves in vegetation
  • Waiting patiently to stalk their prey
  • Quickly snatching their prey with their forelegs

Examples of common prey items include grasshoppers, crickets, and other insects. The main difference between males and females in this aspect lies in their size and physical appearance, which can affect their ability to blend into the surroundings.

Mating and Copulation

Males and females of praying mantises exhibit different behaviors during mating and copulation. The male praying mantis typically searches for a mate, while the female remains stationary and releases pheromones to attract a partner.

Male Praying Mantis Female Praying Mantis
Searches for a mate Attracts mates using pheromones
Smaller in size Larger and more robust
Greater chance of escaping post-copulation Cannibalistic tendencies

The mating process itself involves the male mounting the female, transferring sperm, and fertilizing the eggs. After fertilization, the female produces a protective case called an ootheca, which houses the developing praying mantis nymphs.

In summary, male and female praying mantises share many behavioral similarities, such as their preying and ambush strategies. Their primary differences lie in the female’s cannibalistic tendencies during mating, their body sizes, and their distinct roles in the mating process.

Identifying Male and Female Praying Mantises

Segment Counting Method

One method to distinguish male and female praying mantises is through the segment counting method. Males typically have 8 abdominal segments, while females have 6. To count the segments:

  • Gently hold the mantis upside-down
  • Carefully count the segments on the underside of the abdomen

Using a Magnifying Glass

Another way to determine the sex of a praying mantis is by examining their eyes using a magnifying glass. Male mantises usually have larger and rounder eyes, while females tend to have smaller eyes that are more oval-shaped.

Visual Differences

There are additional visual differences between male and female praying mantises:

Size

  • Males: Usually smaller and more slender
  • Females: Generally larger and bulkier

Wings

  • Males: Wings generally extend beyond the abdomen
  • Females: Wings often cover less of the abdomen

Flying

  • Males: Better at flying due to their lighter build
  • Females: Less adept at flying, especially when carrying eggs
Male Praying Mantis Female Praying Mantis
Size Smaller, more slender Larger, bulkier
Wings Extend beyond abdomen Cover less of abdomen
Flying Better at flying Less adept at flying
Segments 8 abdominal segments 6 abdominal segments
Eyes Larger, rounder Smaller, more oval-shaped

By examining these features, distinctions between male and female praying mantises can be made more apparent. Understanding these differences in sexual dimorphism aids in the effective identification of mantis sexes, ensuring accurate observations in both casual and scientific settings.

Footnotes

  1. University of Maryland Extension

  2. Illinois Extension

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 – Preying Mantis

 

what is this

A Preying Mantis

Letter 2 – Preying Mantis

 

Huge Mantis and Questions
Dear Bugman and company,
First of all, let me say that I love your "What’s That Bug" website. I have spent at least two hours looking at the bugs so far and I don’t generally sit still that long unless something is very interesting. Your site has helped me identify a bug or three in my apartment. (I was a little startled the first time I saw a house centipede…one of the weirdest creatures I have ever seen – but very neat!)
I would also like to say that I never kill bugs unless they have infested my home en masse. I just capture them and take them outside. (I happen to like bugs. Except ants. I have an ant phobia.) I have a picture of a *huge* praying mantis that I captured once, this thing was four inches long; I have never seen one that big in my life. How big do they generally get? At any rate, there was a bug zapper outside the building where I found it so I put it in a styrofoam glass and let it go when I got home. I have included a picture of him (her?) if you would like to use it on your website. (Hand is about 3 inches across.) I mean jeez, I thought this guy was a small bird when I saw it flying towards me! :laughs: I used to have a pet one, I got really good at catching flies with my hand for her to eat. (Thought it was a male until she laid eggs. But most of the young died. : ( ) I do have a few questions if you have the time to answer them. One, is it safe to pick up house centipedes with bare hands? I mean, if you get one on your hand, it is likely to bite? I know most sites say they verry rarely bite, but I figured I would ask if it’s okay to pick one up. Also, what do baby house centipedes look like? In the last two days I have seen two tiny bugs that look exactly like miniature house centipedes, it was cool! Do they have some larva stage, or are they miniatures of the adults? House spiders. If I am right, they’re the tan, black, or gray creatures with dark stripes that sort of look like a giant caroway seed. I see them all the time indoors. Will these bite? I have seen sites that talk about Domestic and (Aggressive?) house spiders. One bites and one doesn’t? How do I tell which one is safe to remove by hand and which one I should get a container for? If you have clear pictures I might look at, I would be most appreciative! True bugs… I know most people call all the creepy crawlies "bugs", but what makes a bug a bug, as opposed to, say, an insect? What are the determining factors? Thank you very much for your time, and again, great site!
Al

Hi Al,
Thanks for the kind letter and great attitude. In the states, Mantises can grow to four inches in length easily. House Centipedes will not bite, to the best of our knowledge. Young House Centipedes are like miniature adults. The Domestic Spiders you are describing sound like some type of running spider or Wolf Spider. There is one known as a Mouse Spider, Scotophanaeus blackwalli. A True Bug in the Order Hemiptera is characterized by sucking mouthparts in a jointed beak. They usually have half membranous forewings. Hind wings are uniformly membranous. They possess a triangular scutulum behind the thorax. They have incomplete metamorphosis.

Letter 3 – Preying Mantis

 

I have attached a photo of a mantis that I took a while ago, for your viewing pleasure.
Tim

What a beguiling image Tim.

Letter 4 – Preying Mantis

 

Denver, CO-Mantis on Rose bush
I was so thrilled to see this little guy on my rose. He’s about 4-5" long and really pretty. I have never seen a mantis in Colorado. Are they here and just hiding from me? My flash went off for this shot, though it was an overcast afternoon and not night.
Beth

Hi Beth,
Because Preying Mantis eggs are so readily available as an organic method of pest control, the ranges of these introduced species is constantly expanding. Both the Chinese Mantis and European Mantis have been introduced to this country in the late 1800’s and are now found throughout the continental states. As your photo illustrates, they are masters of camouflage

Letter 5 – Preying Mantis

 

playground bugs [part 2]
Dear BUGMAN,
Thank you for writing back to us! WE LOVE YOUR SITE!!!!!
We are sending two medium sized photos of our Caddisfly [we thought the other photo we sent might be too small to be seen on the site]. We hope they help others! We also included our favorite stag beetle photo and praying mantis photo [it stayed on the wall next to our classroom door for days! We think it was listening in!] Thank you again for your help!
Always looking for bugs, Fours and fives in PA

Dear Fours and Fives in PA,
Thank you for the additonal photos. We are posting them immediately.

Letter 6 – Preying Mantis

 

Praying Mantis
Thu, May 28, 2009 at 8:24 PM
Spotted this fella on my dining room window one September afternoon in Oklahoma City. Thought I would share some of the amazing pics with the site.
AHayes
Oklahoma City, OK, USA

Preying Mantis
Preying Mantis

Dear AHayes,
Thanks for sending your truly amazingly surreal image of a Preying Mantis to our website.  Selecting an unusual angle for a photograph often makes an ordinary subject appear extraordinary.  Though we in no way consider Preying Mantids to be ordinary, the odd perspective does give your photo added interest and it makes the Mantis appear positively menacing.

Letter 7 – Preying Mantis

 

Stick bug?
Location: Orlando, Florida
April 10, 2012 9:12 am
Dear Bugman,
My dad found this bug in his truck just a few short miles from the International Airport in Orlando, Florida. He brought it home and my son, who is absolutely fascinated by bugs, gave it a new home on a blooming morning glory in our flowerbed. We weren’t sure what the exact name of this bug and my son has been calling it a ”grasshopper” (we know it’s not that). What should I tell my son is the correct name of this bug?
Signature: Amanda

Preying Mantis

Hi Amanda,
The easy part is identifying this as a Preying Mantis.  The difficult part is trying to determine the species.  We wish your photo had more detail, but we believe this may be
Oligonicella scudderi based on photos posted to BugGuide.

Letter 8 – Preying Mantis

 

Subject: What type of mantis?
Location: maddisonville KY
November 20, 2012 1:45 pm
I saw a bright green mantis on my window where a spider lives or atleast I think still lives there, somewhere near the beginning of November.Do you have any clue of what type of mantis is nearly all bright green?
Signature: From, Aly

Mantis

Dear Aly,
We can’t say for certain which species of Mantis this is, but we love your drawing.  Based on your location, your Preying Mantis might be a Chinese Mantis which can be either brown or green.  Here is a sad story of a Chinese Mantis that did not survive Sandy.

Letter 9 – Preying Mantis devours Monarch Butterfly

 

PRAYING or PREYING MANTIS IN OUR CONNECTICUT GARDEN (9-5-07)
Hello Daniel,
I hope this email reaches you. My first attempt failed, according to message received from my carrier, "due to an unexpected disconnection from service. Yes, I know you have praying mantis pictures posted on your site but perhaps these will be of use to you as well. On September 1st I commented, to my husband, that I’d yet to find a praying mantis to "shoot" for my photo collection of insects. On September 2nd, we were host to a tremendous monarch butterfly convention. Perhaps we are on a flyway here in Connecticut? They were swarming about our Joe Pie weed and having a great time. I suddenly noticed that one of the revelers was, apparently, "stuck" in the flowers. It was behaving as if engaged in a battle. Upon closer examination, I discovered the truth. A battle to the death. Just look at the "arms" of the praying mantis . . . "all the better to hug you with, my dear. I’m wondering; can you tell if our ravenous praying mantis is a female or male? The creature is still here, well-disguised as a Joe Pie weed branch, waiting for another victim, but our monarchs seem to be gone. From Connecticut, would they travel to Mexico, California or Florida to spend the winter? Thanks for providing such a marvelous site for those of us fascinated by the insects found in our gardens. One does not have to travel far, as I have found, for great adventure!
Susan B. Naumann

Hi Susan,
What a marvelous Food Chain documentation. Your Chinese Mantis might be a male, but we cannot be certain. Your Monarchs would not winter in California but the Oyamel Fir forests of Mexico’s Transverse Volcanic Belt.

Letter 10 – Preying Mantis eaten by Cat in Mexico

 

Subject: Bug ID
Location: Mexico City
December 17, 2012 11:34 pm
Hey I found this today in my house in Mexico City my cat was trying to eat it, can you tell me what is this?
Thanks
Signature: Frida

Preying Mantis Corpse

Hi Frida,
This is the corpse of a Preying Mantis.

Thank you very much Daniel!

Letter 11 – Preying Mantis eats Asian Hornet

 

Subject: Praying mantis eats giant asain hornet
Location: In Asia.
February 11, 2017 4:06 pm
Last July me and my bros were playing video games and when we came outside to chill out a hornet flew in our home!. Then when we were
Trying to swat the wasp with our ps4 controller he flew in to this manties territory and he captured it with ease. So I took some photos.
Then at the end it was decapation.
Signature: Imb

Mantis eats Asian Hornet

Dear Imb,
We love your images of an Asian Mantis feeding on an Asian Hornet, however we do have a few questions we hope you are able to answer.  Asia is a huge continent.  Are you able to provide a city or country?  You indicated that the hornet flew into your home and that it flew into the mantid’s territory.  Was the mantis a pet?  Thanks for your contribution and your clarification of our questions.

Mantis Eats Asian Hornet
Mantis East Asian Hornet

Letter 12 – Preying Mantis eats Cricket

 

Subject: Praying Mantis eating a Cricket?
Location: East Rochester, New York
May 10, 2014 6:50 pm
Hi guys,
I saw this praying mantis eating some sort of bug and immediately thought of your site and the occasional bug on bug carnage pics that would be featured, so here you go! The second picture is some other bug at the same location that I see once in a while. It’s probably not a shield bug but is kinda close in shape. Both pictures were taken mid to late September 2013. And thank you for the great website it helped us identify the house centipedes we have and made them a little less creepy to encounter!
Signature: Veronica

Preying Mantis eats Cricket
Preying Mantis eats Cricket

Hi Veronica,
Thanks for sending us your documentation of a Preying Mantis eating a Cricket, however we want to correct one misconception in your email.  We do not consider anything to be “bug on bug carnage.”  We don’t believe the lower beasts kill one another without good reason, like for food or to defend themselves.  Rather, we have a Food Chain tag that includes images of insects or other creatures preying upon others for food, and we have an Unnecessary Carnage tag reserved for humans, who out of ignorance, kill lower beasts because of fear, misconception or just plain torture.  Your second image is an invasive, exotic Brown Marmorated Stink Bug.

Letter 13 – Preying Mantis eats Pennsylvania Leatherwing

 

Bugtopia
Mon, Oct 6, 2008 at 3:08 PM
The mums are in full bloom in northern Virginia, right near the Blue Ridge Mountains. A mantis has set up home and enjoying the buffet. Not really much that needs identified, but I appreciated to be on the bugs level. Roll Call: Mantis, Ermine Moth, Conifer Seed Bug. Can you tell what the mantis is eating for my records?
Don
Purcellville, VA

Preying Mantis eats Bug of the Month
Preying Mantis eats Bug of the Month

Hi Don,
It sure looks to us like your Preying Mantis is eating our Bug of the Month, the Pennsylvania Leatherwing or Goldenrod Soldier Beetle.

Letter 14 – Preying Mantis Egg Cases or Oothecas

 

Egg case, Cocoon, Chrysalis?
I’ve found a few of these around the house (a couple on the house), and I’m wondering what they are. Ibelieve I opened one up a couple years ago without seeing one single ‘thing’ inside, which lead me to believe that it was some kind of egg case. ‘little help? btw, just discovered the sight; thanks for being here!

Hi Gerrold,
It looks to me like you might have Preying Mantis egg cases. The females spray a type of foam to insulate the eggs against a severe winter and also to protect them from other harm.

Mantis egg-cases hatched!
Thanks again for your response, and I thought you might be interested in what we discovered this morning.

As the attatched pictures show, we have baby mantises! My camera wouldn’t get quite as close as I would’ve liked , but you might be able to make out a baby hanging entangled from the case in picture #1. He was small, ill formed, and not moving, so I put him on the bench & shot him away from the case. Then I noticed he was moving, ever so slightly(possibly they emerge from the case in a state rather like that of a butterfly leaving the cocoon, and need some time to ‘puff up and dry out’. Afterwards, we found one of his brethren on our Buddleia (butterfly bush), and I managed to snag a couple of pics of him scouting her new ‘digs’. This guy is about a quarter of an inch long, the eggling was maybe an eight of an inch.

Wow Gerrold,
That is so exciting. Thank you so much for the follow-up letter and the beautiful photographs. We are posting them immediately. Please continue to send us mantis photos if possible. We would love to post some eating photos as well as fully grown specimens.

(06/14/2004) Mantis Brood Update
Are you a victim of success? Couldn’t get to the site today, but here’s an update for you on my baby mantis brood. I found one of the ‘kids’ on my Hardy Hibiscus today; (S)he’s a hair over half an inch, eyeballs to end of abdomen (if it was held oyt straight, instead of canted up like that). No dining pictures yet–That’d be a stroke of luck, but I will keep my fingers crossed.

Letter 15 – Preying Mantis Eggcase

 

Cocoon
We found this cocoon attached to the underside of a small branch on a miniature Japanese maple in our yard. The photos were taken on February 3, 2005 in Clackamas County, Oregon near the city of Milwaukie at 45 25′ 45"N 122 36′ 26"W, elev. 125′. The cocoon is 35mm long and 18mm at the widest.
It seems that these might be fairly common in our area. About two months ago I saw a bird carry one of them into the yard and break it up looking for some morsel inside. I have not opened the cocoon so I can’t report what is inside, if anything. I intend to do some macro studies of the attachment point in the next few days. Any help identifying the insect will be appreciated.
Michael A. Perry

Hi Michael,
If you leave the Preying Mantis Eggcase where it is, it will hatch in the spring releasing about 200 baby mantids who will begin to rid your garden of unwanted pests.

Daniel,
Outstanding! We have a pesticide-free garden and rely exclusively on natural predators to control unwanted pests. This egg case is a very valuable find and will be carefully preserved until the mantids hatch. Thanks!
Mike

Letter 16 – Preying (Praying) Mantis: What's in a Name???

 

Is it Praying Mantis or Preying Mantis?
Location: Naperville, IL
September 16, 2011 2:33 pm
Hi Daniel~
I was wondering because I have seen it spelled both ways. Wikipedia claims preying mantis is a misspelling, and its scientific name of Mantis religiosa seems to support that. But can there really be an authoritative verdict for the common name of an insect?
Best regards,
Signature: Dori Eldridge

Preying Mantis or Praying Mantis?

Hi Dori,
We just posted a comment about our “error” in using the name Preying Mantis on our site.  The scientific community regulates the official scientific binomial (genus and species) names to avoid confusion, especially since a consistent name can be used regardless of the language that is spoken or written.  Common names generate confusion, but Eric Eaton informed us several years ago about the attempt to standardize common names by the Entomological Society of America.  Wikipedia is not the final word on matters such as this and Wikipedia is not regarded very highly among library researchers and others in research fields, though we admit it can be a helpful source when beginning a research topic.  We prefer the secular verb “prey” because the mantis actually does prey, and it only appears to pray because of the tendency for humans to anthropomorphize their surroundings.

Preying (or Praying) Mantis (or Mantid)

What an elegant reply to my query.  Thank you very much, Daniel!

Update from Dori
September 18, 2011
Goodness!  I actually had not seen it, but then again, neither did I see the September 16th query from Pat, regarding the exact same topic.  My apologies for the redundancy of my post and for the uppity comment it inspired.  I am a bit of a stickler for good grammar, spelling and pronunciation – hence, my original curiosity about the mantis.  You’ve thoroughly explained your reasons for using “preying” rather than “praying”, backed them up with concurring scientific opinion, and in so doing, shown enough thought behind your decision so as to render comments such as Mick’s needless picking.  Is “preying mantis” really redundant, however?  Etymologically speaking, μάντης (mantis) means “diviner” or “prophet” in Greek, so that would suggest that “praying mantis” is the redundant form.  And entomologically speaking, I have been unable to find a definition of mantis that does not include references to both the insect’s predacious nature and the prayer-like position of its forelegs.  So I guess that makes both preying mantis and praying mantis redundant.
All the best,
-Dori

Authors

    by
  • 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.

  • 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.

15 thoughts on “Praying Mantis Male vs Female: Unveiling the Differences”

  1. Until 5 years ago I had never encountered a preying mantis in the “wild”. In 2004 I was installing new electrical service to the farm house and noticed the grass was moving. There was what I could only describe as a small herd of mantis headed north to the unmowed back four acres. I bottled up one to show the wife that had to be six inches long. Now each year since I start looking for them in mid to late August and each year I see them headed north. Their numbers vary, but they are there like clockwork each year.

    Reply
  2. “We prefer the secular verb “prey”…”

    Well, it’s “praying mantis”, no matter what WhatsThatBug.com prefers (a bit arrogantly, I might add).

    I’ve heard people “prefer” to incorrectly pronounce the word “library” as “lie-berry”, but that doesn’t magically change the correct pronunciation. Instead it makes the person seem ignorant, silly, childish.

    Besides, “preying mantis” is redundant.

    Reply
    • Dear Mike,
      Thank you for your sharp critical analysis of the personality traits of our editorial staff. Your comment is not the first time we have been challenged because of our opinions. We reserve the right to personal expression on our website and elsewhere, and that includes the right to be playful with the complexity and beauty of the English language. We believe that language should be malleable and that conscious and informed decisions should contribute to the metamorphosis of the spoken and written word. This is different from the degeneration of speech due to sloppy syntax or uninformed pronunciation.
      Now, back to the whole preying versus praying matter: This is not a new debate, and we do not stand alone in the scientific community regarding our preferences. The Smithsonian National Zoological Park online newsletter Zoogoer published an article entitled Preying Mantids: Hiding in Plain Sight by Roberta Brett. Brett wrote: “At rest, the front legs are held in a position we like to call ‘prayerful.’ This characteristic pose inspired Linnaeus to name an Old World species, Mantis religiosa. Its pious appearance may have earned it the title ‘praying’ mantid, but ‘preying’ mantid would be a more accurate term. As orthopterist Ashley B. Gurney wrote in 1951, ‘the only thing mantids would seem to pray for is a square meal.'” Noted entomologist Charles Hogue cited the same Gurney quote in the book Insects of the Los Angeles Basin. Hogue agreed that Preying Mantid would be a more “realistic” name.

      Reply
  3. The mantis was not a pet. He was in the home . I’m assuming he was hungry and the hornet was a meal fit for a king like blazing neon sign at a all night dinner and then as the wasp flew near bam. I do not provide for my country but yeah . Thanks for the response.

    Reply
  4. Those are awesome pics you got of that act of nature !!
    I just heard that the Giant Asian Hornet is a problem in the State of Washington …

    Reply
  5. Those are awesome pics you got of that act of nature !!
    I just heard that the Giant Asian Hornet is a problem in the State of Washington …

    Reply

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