Praying Mantis

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This page talks about the praying mantis which is a good insect for the garden.. 

What is he praying?  "Dear Lord, we thank thee for this food for which we are about to eat."

Mantises are an order (Mantodea) of insects that contains over 2,400 species in about 430 genera in 30 families. The largest family is the Mantidae ("mantids"). Mantises are distributed worldwide in temperate and tropical habitats. They have triangular heads with bulging eyes supported on flexible necks. Their elongated bodies may or may not have wings, but all Mantodea have forelegs that are greatly enlarged and adapted for catching and gripping prey; their upright posture, while remaining stationary with forearms folded, has led to the common name praying mantis.

The closest relatives of mantises are the termites and cockroaches (Blattodea), which are all within the superorder Dictyoptera. Mantises are sometimes confused with stick insects (Phasmatodea), other elongated insects such as grasshoppers (Orthoptera), or other unrelated insects with raptorial forelegs such as mantisflies (Mantispidae). Mantises are mostly ambush predators, but a few ground-dwelling species are found actively pursuing their prey. They normally live for about a year. In cooler climates, the adults lay eggs in autumn, then die. The eggs are protected by their hard capsules and hatch in the spring. Females sometimes practice sexual cannibalism, eating their mates after copulation.

Praying mantis are good for the garden since they eat bad bugs like  various aphids, leaf hoppers (grass hoppers), mosquitoes, caterpillars and other soft-bodied insects when young.

Later they will eat larger insects, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, and other pest insects. These ferocious-looking praying mantises actually make great pets.

Mantises are generalist predators of arthropods.  The majority of mantises are ambush predators that only feed upon live prey within their reach. They either camouflage themselves and remain stationary, waiting for prey to approach, or stalk their prey with slow, stealthy movements.

Most mantises stalk tempting prey if it strays close enough, and will go further when they are especially hungry.  Once within reach, mantises strike rapidly to grasp the prey with their spiked raptorial forelegs.

Enemies of Praying Mantis

Mantises are preyed on by vertebrates such as frogs, lizards, and birds, and by invertebrates such as spiders, large species of hornets, and ants. 

Some hunting wasps, such as some species of Tachytes also paralyse some species of mantis to feed their young. 

Generally, mantises protect themselves by camouflage, most species being cryptically colored to resemble foliage or other backgrounds, both to avoid predators and to better snare their prey.  Those that live on uniformly colored surfaces such as bare earth or tree bark are dorsoventrally flattened so as to eliminate shadows that might reveal their presence. 

The species from different families called flower mantises are aggressive mimics: they resemble flowers convincingly enough to attract prey that come to collect pollen and nectar. 

Some species in Africa and Australia are able to turn black after a molt towards the end of the dry season; at this time of year, bush fires occur and this coloration enables them to blend in with the fire-ravaged landscape.

Many people are afraid of them but they are harmless to human beings. 


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