The praying mantis has a very unique style of resting, with the front feet joined together. This is what gave it its name. It seems to be preying in front of a deity and in a deep state of thought. Along with its resting style, its life cycle is also very interesting.
The praying mantis is known to eat anything that moves and breathes that happens to be on its way. It is an amazing carnivorous insect. This insect has a body structure that won’t differ a lot from other insects, being divided into three different parts. These are the head, the abdomen, and the thorax. They also have long antennae that they use to catch smells.
You might have heard about the amazing way in which the life cycle of a praying mantis will start. It will involve the unique, very interesting, and infamous way of “reproduction cannibalism”. This is when the female will reproduce with the male and then feed on it, eating it completely. Some species of praying mantis will have the female eat only the head of their mate after mating. Although people think that all praying mantis species will feature a cannibalistic reproduction, it turns out that only around 15% of these insects will actually consume the male after mating.
You might also like my articles on the lifecycle of mealworms, the cricket anatomy, and the significance of the Luna Moth.
The expected lifespan of the average praying mantis will be one year, although this will differ based on its particular species. Many of the praying mantis species will only be able to live around 6 months as adults. This insect will breed during the summer season. This insect has a life cycle split into three different stages.
The Egg Stage: After going through fertilization, a female mantis will usually lay anywhere between 10 and 400 eggs within the autumn season. They will place these eggs on all kinds of safe surfaces, like stems, and leaves. They have some very interesting egg houses inside their abdomen called ootheca. These are frothy, liquid-like structures. It features special formations that serve as compartments for each individual egg. These compartments also have small structures, similar to valves, that are one-way and help the baby insects hatch without a lot of effort. The ootheca will work as a protective cover for the small mantis in colder weather.
The Nymph Stage: In the spring season, the small mantis babies will come out of the ootheca fully developed. Considering that their parents will eat each other after breeding, what do you think the babies’ first meal will be? Of course, their siblings. They will go on to eat small grasshoppers, aphids, and flies after that. It will take these nymphs the entire summer to reach adulthood.
The Adult Stage: To reach adulthood, these small praying mantises will have to mold, which basically means shedding a lot of layers of their exoskeleton. Their growing wings will be situated under that exoskeleton.
This insect has a very elongated abdomen. Only adults will have wings in this area. They have compound eyes mounted on a triangular head. Depending on the species, the praying mantis will have a specific color and size. They come in all kinds of colors, from faint pink to a faint green, but you will notice that most of them are either brown or pea-green in color. You will find pink praying mantises in tropical regions, where the natural ambient will create flowers of similar colors. The eyes of this insect are very sensitive and can move at an 1800 angle. This makes it possible for this creature to see any predators or prey from 60 feet away.
Humid and warm regions are where praying mantises like to live. This is why you will find the most types of praying mantis in South Africa, Australia, Southern Asia, Europe, and North and South America. Scientists have been able to find over 2000 species of praying mantises so far, out of which the biggest is 12 inches long and the smallest one is 2/5 of an inch in length. Only about 20 species are known to come from the United States, while the bulk of the species is found in Asia.
There are a few types of flower mantis, which is a subspecies of the praying mantis, that can perfectly camouflage into a flower. They do such a good job that many insects will land on its back and try to collect nectar. The perfect way in which it will blend with nature also helps keep the mantis safe from most predators like bats and birds.
Although its forelegs give it a humble look, they are actually really powerful weapons, equipped with very sharp spine-like rows, that are of great help in catching prey. They will be basically invisible to prey due to their unique way of mimicking plants, stems, and leaves.
They will only attack when prey is within their reach and will act by putting their pincer-like legs forward to grab it. They will usually try to eat their prey while it is still alive. Among their most common prey, there are crickets, grasshoppers, spiders, beetles, butterflies, other praying mantises, and some other types of invertebrates. There are some species of praying mantis, usually the bigger specimens, that are able to eat hummingbirds, lizards, mice, and small frogs.
The praying mantis is known to do all of the tasks, including hunting during the daytime, which makes them diurnal insects.
Before reaching adulthood, this insect will mold and shed its exoskeleton completely (meaning that they get rid of its outer skin layer), 12 times, which is a record in the insect world.
Many farmers and gardeners will actually use these insects as a form of natural insecticide. This is why it is legal across the US to keep and sell the species of praying mantis that are native to the area.
The insect has a really menacing posture that it uses to fend off predators. it will stand tall and keep its mouth open. It will spread the wings and fan them to look considerably bigger than it really is.
Most praying mantises will only fly during the mating season when the female would spread pheromones and the males will fly to mate. Aside from this, there are a bunch of praying mantises that will never grow wings and will never need them.
A very interesting aspect about the praying mantis is that all species have just one ear which is perfectly set on the ultrasonic frequency that bats make use of. This is a great advantage, considering that bats are among their biggest predators.
Due to its amazing preying skills, the name of the praying mantis is lots of times misspelled as preying mantis, which would be another fitting name.