Praying Mantis: Man Eater

Hi, Bugman.
Is it true that a male praying mantis must have his head bitten off by the female he is mating with, in order to ejaculate? If so, that would be quite a decision to make, it seems to me! For the male, that is. And is this uncommon in the insect world? What might be the reason for this to be the case with the praying mantis?
M. Mattison
Oslo, Norway
(the praying mantis is referred to as a "kneeler" in Norway)

Hi Mark,
While it is not necessary for the male preying mantis to be beheaded in order to consumate the mating ritual, the female mantis will occasionally bite off her mate’s head. Much like a chicken with its head cut off, the male mantis will continue to perform actions, in this case, continuing the mating procedure. The male mantis doesn’t really make a decision in this matter. He is a slave to his hormones. It is fair to call this behavior uncommon in the insect world, though many female spiders, including the black widow, also devour their mate, which gets to the main reason this occurs. The female requires a considerable amount of nutrition to produce strong eggs, and to survive to protect them as well. The sacrifice of the male of the species helps to ensure that a healthy future generation gets off to a good start. It is for the good of the species, not the survival of the individual. "Kneeler" is an interesting local name. I wonder what its origin is. Here are some photos I love. They are steps 4 and 5 in the mating of the Preying Mantis shot by Catherine Chalmers for her book Food Chain: Encounters Between Mates, Predators, and Prey published by Aperture.

Thanks a lot for your explanation. And what is the correct spelling? "Preying" or "praying?" Both of them make sense. As for the reason why they’re called "kneeles" in Norwegian, I will try to find out. Thanks again.
Mark Mattison

Both spellings are correct, depending upon the author. I prefer to spotlight the hunting versus the religious connotation.

I now believe that the Norwegian name "kneeler" is from the same reason we say "praying" mantis: you kneel when you pray. At least if you accept the "praying" spelling. At least it makes sense. Why didn’t I think of that

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