Life Cycle of a Praying Mantis And Other Intriguing Facts

Life Cycle of a Praying Mantis And Other Intriguing Facts

The praying mantis got its name because of its unique style of resting with the forelegs joined together, as if in a state of deep thought or praying in front of a deity. Like its interesting style of resting, a praying mantis’ life cycle is also unique.

The praying mantis got its name because of its unique style of resting with the forelegs joined together, as if in a state of deep thought or praying in front of a deity. Like its interesting style of resting, a praying mantis’ life cycle is also unique.

Praying mantis is a carnivorous insect notorious for eating almost any living thing that comes its way. The body structure of a praying mantis is like that of most insects, which is divided into three parts―abdomen, head and thorax, and the antennae that are used for smelling.

Life Cycle

Life Cycle of a Praying Mantis And Other Intriguing Facts

Life cycle of praying mantis starts with a unique, infamous and interesting method that is known as, ‘sexual cannibalism’. In this method, the female kills or feeds herself on the male after mating. In some species of praying mantis, females eat the head of their mate after copulation. This is actually a topic of debate though many researchers deny the hypothesis. It is said that only 15% of praying mantis females consume a male after mating. Praying mantis lifespan varies with respect to different species, but the average lifespan of a praying mantis is almost one year. In most of the species of praying mantis, they live only 6 months as an adult. Summer season is the breeding season of the praying mantis. There are three stages in the life cycle of a praying mantis.

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Eggs: After fertilization, the female lays 10 to 400 eggs in the autumn season. These eggs are secured on leaves, stems or any other safe surface. The egg houses are interesting, frothy, liquid-like structures present in their abdomen, called ootheca. It has a compartment-like special formation for every single egg. These compartments have a small one-way, valve-like structures that helps the insects to hatch with minimum efforts. These ‘oothecas’ are meant to protect the baby mantis during the cold weather.

Nymphs: The developed small-sized mantis come out of the oothecas in the spring season. The first meal of these small praying mantis is surprisingly, their siblings! These nymphs also eat flies, aphids, and small grasshoppers. These nymphs take the whole summer season to grow up to adulthood.

Adults: On reaching adulthood, the small praying mantis shed many layers of their exoskeleton, which is called molting. Below their exoskeleton are their growing wings.


The abdomen of the praying mantis is elongated. In adults, this area is covered with wings. The head is triangular with mounted compound eyes. The size and the color of the praying mantis varies according to its species. The colors range from faint green to faint pink, but most commonly, they are pea green or brown in color. Some praying mantis are pink in color, especially the species found on similarly-shaded flowers found in tropical regions. Praying mantis have very sensitive eyes that move in a 180 0 angle, which enables them to see predators from a distance of 60 feet.


The praying mantis likes to stay in warm and humid regions. Hence, various species of praying mantis are found in North and South America, Europe, Southern Asia, Australia, and South Africa. There are more than 2000 species of praying mantises, with the smallest being 2/5 part of an inch and the biggest being 12 inch long. Most species are found in Asia, whereas about 20 species are native to the United States. Most of the species of flower mantis―a species of praying mantis―can make a perfect illusion of a flower, which confuses their prey which sometimes land on the back of the insect to collect the nectar. Camouflaging also helps the praying mantis to stay safe from numerous predators, like birds and bats.

The humble forelegs that gave this name to the praying mantis are actually extremely well equipped, with sharp spine like rows that help them to catch their prey. The praying mantis mimics the leaves and stems in a way which makes them almost invisible to their prey. When the prey is within the reach, they put their pincer-like foreleg forward and grab it. Most often, they start eating their prey when it is still alive. The prey of the praying mantises are usually fellow mantises, butterflies, beetles, spiders, grasshoppers, crickets, and almost all other invertebrates. Some species of praying mantis eat vertebrates like small frogs, mice, lizards and even hummingbirds.

Praying Mantis Facts

Praying mantises are diurnal insects, which means they work and hunt only during the day time.

They shed their exoskeleton (outer skin layer) for a record 12 times, before growing into a complete adult.

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Praying mantises are useful insects for gardeners and farmers as natural insecticides. Hence, it is legal in the US to sell and keep only native praying mantis species.

When threatened by predators, the praying mantis stands tall with an open mouth, fanning wings and spreads out it forelegs to look bigger than their actual size in order to scare the opponents.

Praying mantises shed their exoskeleton (outer skin layer) for a record 12 times, before growing into a complete adult.

Some species of praying mantis never grow wings at all and those who have the wings fly only when the female mantis spreads the pheromones (chemical signals) to attract the male.

An interesting fact, the praying mantis has only one ear, that uses the same ultrasonic frequency that the bats use, which are by far their biggest predators.

The praying mantis name is often misspelled as ‘preying’ mantis which is possibly because of their significant preying characteristics. It is always a fun to observe an insect and especially when it is the ‘alien-like’ triangular headed praying mantis.

10 Fascinating Praying Mantis Facts

Praying Mantids Hear With Their Bellies (And Other Fun Facts)

  • B.A., Political Science, Rutgers University

The word mantis comes from the Greek mantikos, for soothsayer or prophet. Indeed, these insects do seem spiritual, especially when their forelegs are clasped together as if they’re in prayer. Learn more about these mysterious insects with these 10 fascinating facts about praying mantids.

1. Most Praying Mantids Live in the Tropics

Of approximately 2,000 species of mantids described to date, almost all are tropical creatures. Just 18 native species are known from the entire North American continent. About 80% of all members of the order Mantodea belong to a single family, the Mantidae.

2. The Mantids We See Most Often in the U.S. Are Exotic Species

You’re more likely to find an introduced mantid species than you are to find a native praying mantis. The Chinese mantis (Tenodera aridifolia) was introduced near Philadelphia, PA about 80 years ago. This large mantid can measure up to 100 mm in length. The European mantid, Mantis religiosa, is pale green and about half the size of the Chinese mantid. European mantids were introduced near Rochester, NY nearly a century ago. Both the Chinese and European mantids are common in the northeastern U.S. today.

3. Mantids Can Turn Their Heads a Full 180 Degrees

Try to sneak up on a praying mantis, and you may be startled when it looks over its shoulder at you. No other insect can do so. Praying mantids have a flexible joint between the head and prothorax that enables them to swivel their heads. This ability, along with their rather humanoid faces and long, grasping forelegs, endears them to even the most entomophobic people among us.

4. Mantids Are Closely Related to Cockroaches and Termites

These three seemingly different insects – mantids, termites, and cockroaches – are believed to descend from a common ancestor. In fact, some entomologists group these insects in a superorder (Dictyoptera), due to their close evolutionary relationships.

5. Praying Mantids Overwinter as Eggs in Temperate Regions

The female praying mantis deposits her eggs on a twig or stem in the fall ​and then protects them with a Styrofoam-like substance she secretes from her body. This forms a protective egg case, or ootheca, in which her offspring will develop over the winter. Mantid egg cases are easy to spot in the winter when leaves have fallen from shrubs and trees. But be forewarned! If you bring an overwintering ootheca into your warm home, you may find your house teeming with tiny mantids.

6. Female Mantids Sometimes Eat Their Mates

Yes, it’s true, female praying mantids do cannibalize their sex partners. In some instances, she’ll even behead the poor chap before they’ve consummated their relationship. As it turns out, a male mantid is an even better lover when his brain, which controls inhibition, is detached from his abdominal ganglion, which controls the actual act of copulation. Cannibalism is variable across the different mantid species, with estimates ranging from about 46% of all sexual encounters to none at all. It occurs among praying mantids between 13–28% of natural encounters in the field.

7. Mantids Use Specialized Front Legs to Capture Prey

The praying mantis is so named because when waiting for prey, it holds its front legs in an upright position as if they are folded in prayer. Don’t be fooled by its angelic pose, however, because the mantid is a deadly predator. If a bee or fly happens to land within its reach, the praying mantis will extend its arms with lightning quick speed, and grab the hapless insect. Sharp spines line the mantid’s raptorial forelegs, enabling it to grasp the prey tightly as it eats. Some larger mantids catch and eat lizards, frogs, and even birds. Who says bugs are at the bottom of the food chain?! The praying mantis would better be called the preying mantis.

8. Mantids Are Relatively Young Compared to Other Ancient Insects

The earliest fossil mantids date from the Cretaceous Period and are between 146-66 million years old. These primitive mantid specimens lack certain traits found in the mantids that live today. They don’t have the elongate pronotum, or extended neck, of modern-day mantids and they lack spines on their forelegs.

9. Praying Mantids Are Not Necessarily Beneficial Insects

Praying mantids can and will consume lots of other invertebrates in your garden, so they’re often considered beneficial predators. It’s important to note, however, that mantids don’t discriminate between good bugs and bad bugs when looking for meals. A praying mantis is just as likely to eat a native bee that’s pollinating your plants as it is to eat a caterpillar pest. Garden supply companies often sell the egg cases of Chinese mantids, touting them as a biological control for your garden, but these predators may do as much harm as good in the end.

10. Mantids Have Two Eyes, but Only One Ear

A praying mantis has two large, compound eyes that work together to help it decipher visual cues. But strangely, the praying mantis has just a single ear, located on the underside of its belly, just forward of its hind legs. This means the mantid cannot discriminate the direction of a sound, nor its frequency. What it can do is detect ultrasound, or sound produced by echolocating bats. Studies have shown that praying mantids are quite good at evading bats. A mantis in flight will essentially stop, drop, and roll in midair, dive bombing away from the hungry predator. Not all mantids have an ear, and those that don’t are typically flightless, so they don’t have to flee flying predators like bats.

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