The Praying Mantis is one of the most loved of the insect world to humans and one of the most feared to other insects.
It is extremely beneficial to gardens and humans because of its penchant for eating the things that bug us. They will eat mites, aphids and most other insects that are within the grasp of their front legs.
Praying mantis’ are related to grasshoppers and crickets, belonging to a family of insects called orthoptera.
They have, like their cousin the grasshopper, mouths which have parts designed to chew and very distinct wings.
There are about 1800 varieties of mantis world wide. Many, if not most of these live in warmer, subtropical climates, however the United States is home to about three of them.
Only one, the Carolina mantis is considered to be native to the United States, the others, including the European and Chinese arrived in the US via shipments of goods which had been brought here around the turn of the century, late 1800’s, or early 1900’s.
Praying mantis mate in the autumn. The male of the species is much smaller than the female and sometimes end up as lunch rather than a potential climate.
The male perches atop the females back and touches his abdominal area to hers, passing his sperm to her body where she stores them in chambers designed especially for this purpose. Once the mating is over, females very often will consume the male, at times even before the mating ritual is over.
The male mantis do not attempt to prevent themselves from being eaten, but usually permit it.
The female carries her eggs with her for a time, depositing them finally in a walnut sized cluster.
Praying Mantis can grow to well over 6 inches, and go through some very distinct changes as they grow from infancy to adulthood.
The three changes which the mantis goes through as it changes from a baby to an adult are egg, nymph, and adult.
Once the egg hatches, a baby, or immature praying mantis is revealed. It is called a nymph, and looks almost exactly like its mother except it is a great deal smaller and the wings have not yet appeared.
These little nymphs grow in a very unique way as compared to a human or mammal. The body of the little nymph grows larger and as it does so, it outgrows its skeleton. Mantis babies have what is called an exoskeleton, which means that its skeleton is on the outside of its body. These skeletons are flexible and allow for some growth, yet they themselves do not grow. When the insect baby becomes too large, it must shed the exoskeleton which is too small and form a new one. The process of losing the exoskeleton is called molting.
Little mantis will lose this exoskeleton as many as ten times, depending on which type they are. Every time they do molt they grow more, until they are as large as they will become.
Somehow, nature knows when it is time for the last molting, and they emerge from their last molt with wings which will be thin, transparent and look a great deal like wrinkled fabric. Within several hours they will dry and begin to stretch.
The praying mantis will very often attack and eat things much larger than herself, including frogs and lizards. Adult and small mantis will eat anything that does not eat them first. They will kill moths, bees, beetles and horseflies, which is what makes them a friend to humans.
Find out more about the Praying Mantis’ over at Wikipedia »