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Praying Mantis

Reproduction, PreyingDefense, Interaction with the environment

The praying mantis (plural praying mantids) is a carnivorous insects of the order Mantoidea (or Mantodea) named for its typical stance of an upright body with the two front legs held out in a pose of prayer. The long, thick, spiny, legs and the markedly triangular head with two large compound eyes make the mantis one of the most readily identifiable of all insects. The long neck of the praying mantis is actually the prothorax, which connects the head to the thorax and supports the front legs. Two other pairs of running legs attach to either side of the thorax, as do the wings, which lie folded over the slender, elongated body. The more than 1,800 species of praying mantids, range in size from 0.4-5.9 in (1-15 cm) long and are found in most tropical and temperate climates around the world.


Most mantids are green, brown, or gray, and sit motionless on a leaf, twig, or bark, camouflaged from predators such as birds, small animals, and other insects. The tiny South African flower-dwelling mantis, Harpagomantis discolor, can change color to match the flower. Scare tactics, which provide some defense against small predators, include raising the torso while holding the formidable forelegs high and wide, and flashing the conspicuously marked wings.


Mantids in gardens help to control the number of pest insects but mantids cannot provide effective control for agricultural insect pests.


Resources

Books

Preston-Mafham, Ken. Grasshoppers and Mantids of the World. London/Sydney: Blandford, 1990.


Marie L. Thompson

KEY TERMS

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Crypsis

—Colored or shaped to blend in with a particular environment (camouflage).

Ocelli

—Simple eyes which detect light and dark.

Ootheca

—Egg case.

Ovipositor

—Egg laying duct at the end of the abdomen.

Prothorax

—The first of three segments of the thorax.

Additional topics

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