Praying mantis: An appetite for other insects

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  • Photos by DON BARTLING The Praying Mantis has very long front legs they hold in a position that reminds people of praying. The Praying mantis is a large predatory insect found in gardens.

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    To capture their prey, mantis use their camouflage to blend in with the surroundings and wait for the prey to be within striking distance.

  • Photos by DON BARTLING The Praying Mantis has very long front legs they hold in a position that reminds people of praying. The Praying mantis is a large predatory insect found in gardens.

  • 1

    To capture their prey, mantis use their camouflage to blend in with the surroundings and wait for the prey to be within striking distance.

If you wonder how the Praying Mantis got their name, just look at them. They have very long front legs that they hold in a position that reminds people of praying.

The praying mantis is a large insect that can be found in gardens and is a predatory species. Many gardeners and farmers welcome the mantis, because the insects they eat are often pests that hurt crops. Being a carnivorous insect, the praying mantis feeds primarily on other insects such as fruit flies, crickets, beetles, moths and bees. However, it is not uncommon for larger praying mantis to consume anything it catches including small lizards.

The praying mantis has a long neck and huge compound eyes mounted on a triangular head and have a large range of vision. They use sight for detecting movement of prey and swivel their heads to bring their prey into a binocular field of view. They have a fully articulated head and are able to rotate it 180 degrees as well as pivot it. Their antennae are used for smell.

Theyíre well-camouflaged, adapting colors that help them blend with plants. Some also have amazing body shapes that make them look like leaves or branches. Their front legs have rows of sharp spines to help them hold onto their prey, which they usually begin to eat head first.

To capture their prey, mantis use their camouflage to blend in with the surroundings and wait for the prey to be within striking distance. They then use their raptorial front legs to quickly snatch the victim. It then uses the front legs to help position the victim so it may eat it better.

When threatened, praying mantis stands tall and spread their forelegs to allow them to penetrate the target, with their wings fanning out wide and mouths open. The fanning of the wings is used to make the mantis seem larger and to scare the opponent. Some species have bright colors and patterns on their hind wings and inner surfaces of their front legs for this purpose. If harassment persists, the mantis will then strike with their forelegs and attempt to pinch, bite or slash its opponent. They also may make a hissing sound.

Praying mantis can be found in all parts of the world with mild winters and sufficient vegetation. If you havenít seen a praying mantis this summer or fall look around your home; bushes are the preferred habitat, so landscapes that include plenty of shrubbery usually have a number of these predatory insects. They are hard to spot because they are colored to be like the plant on which they lie in wait, and projections of the cuticles of the body and legs often enhance their likeness to bark, twigs, leaves or flowers.

The natural lifespan of a praying mantis in the wild is about 10-12 months, but some mantis kept in captivity have been sustained for 14 months.

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