Praying mantis

From Academic Kids

Praying mantis

Carolina mantis in praying position
Scientific classification

European mantis (Mantis religiosa)
Chinese Mantis (Tenodera Aridifolia Sinensis)
Carolina mantis (Stagomantis carolina)

A praying mantis, or praying mantid, is a kind of insect, of the family Mantidae (order Mantodea), named for their "prayer-like" stance. (The word mantis in Greek means prophet.) There are approximately 2,000 species world-wide; most are tropical or subtropical. There are three species of praying mantises that are common to North America: the European mantis (Mantis religiosa), the Chinese mantis (Tenodera aridifolia sinensis), and the Carolina mantis (Stagomantis carolina). The praying mantis is also the state insect of Connecticut. The English and Chinese species were introduced to the United States around the 1900s as garden predators hoping to control the pest populations.

Mantids are notable for their large size and nimble reflexes. Their diet usually consists of living insects, including flies and aphids; larger species have been known to prey on small lizards, frogs, birds and even rodents. A mantid's prey is caught and held securely with its grasping forelegs. Mantids make use of protective colouration to blend in with the foliage, both to avoid predators themselves, and to better snare their victims.

Mantids are also known to be cannibals. They are not only known to eat other insects, but also other mantids, sometimes even their mating partners (though the frequency of this is often overstated). During the mating season, which typically begins in autumn, male mantids are cautious when approaching female mantids. The male usually approaches from behind and hangs onto the female's back with his front legs. He then deposits and stores sperm cells into a special chamber in the female abdomen. The danger may occur during the mating process or afterwards where the female mantis devours her male mate, sometimes starting by biting off his head. Usually the male mantids will try to get the job done before they are eaten, even if it means performing the task while they are being eaten. Aldous Huxley made philosophical observations about the nature of death while two mantids mated in the sight of two characters in the novel Island. The species was Gongylus gongylodes.

The praying mantis goes through three stages of metamorphosis: egg, nymph, and adult. Scientists also refer this to an incomplete metamorphosis because the nymph and adult insect look so much alike except it is smaller and has no wings. A mantis nymph increases in size by replacing its outer body covering with a sturdy, flexible exoskeleton and molting when needed. This can happen up to five to ten times, depending on the species. After the final molt it should have full grown wings.

Many gardeners consider mantises to be desirable insects, as they prey upon many harmful insect species. Organic gardeners who avoid pesticides may encourage mantises as a form of biological pest control. Mantis egg cases are sold in some garden stores for this purpose.


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