The following information was taken from the book “Praying Mantis For Sale” by John Blevins, published by New World Library, 1994.
Praying mantises are one of the most fascinating insects in existence! They are found throughout the world, but they prefer warm climates. Their wingspan is up to 4 inches (10 cm) long, which makes them quite large compared with other insects. They have two pairs of legs each, and their bodies are covered with small eyespots called ocelli. These little spots give the mantids their common name – “praying mantises”.
They live in colonies of hundreds or even thousands of individuals. Some species may number over 10 million members! Most mantises are nocturnal, but some species do feed during the day. Mantises are predators, feeding on insects such as aphids and caterpillars. However, they will eat almost anything if it’s a tasty morsel.
Mantises have been known to attack humans when given the chance! One of the few things that mantises hate more than other insects is human blood! Most people don’t get bitten or attacked by a mantis, but it does happen. (Just ask my friend’s daughter who got her finger bitten off!)
They have triangular heads with large, prominent eyes. They have a long and flexible neck. Their wings are covered with tiny hairs that help them fly silently through the air. Most mantises have wings with dull colors that help them hide in their surroundings.
As human activity has destroyed their natural habitat, the number of mantises has dramatically declined. The destruction of woodland areas has also made it difficult for the animals to find the insects upon which they normally prey. Some species of mantis are now on the endangered species list!
We’ve all heard about butterflies, but for some reason we don’t see as many praying mantises as we do butterflies.
Is this because there are fewer mantis species than butterfly species?
Maybe. But the real reason may be that butterflies are simply more colorful and easier to spot than mantis. As a result, we see more butterflies and we see them more often. Mantises, on the other hand, are camouflaged to their environment. They are also nocturnal, and many species do not fly but instead prowl, so they are even harder to spot.
One of the best places to see mantis is in a garden. Butterflies like flowers and only come out during the daytime hours. Mantises like flowers as well and sometimes they even eat the petals. But mantis really like to lurk in tall blades of grass and they hunt at night, so if you go sit in a garden late at night with a flashlight you may be lucky enough to see one!
You can attract mantis to your garden by planting their favorite food: aphids! These little green bugs inhabit many plants and trees around the world. They suck the juices from leaves. This doesn’t hurt the plant, but it can become a problem when there are too many of them. This is why you’ll see wilted leaves and clusters of white eggs on the underside of the leaves.
These are aphids “baby”. They hatch out of these eggs and continue to suck the life-force out of your plants. But don’t worry, you can get rid of them using natural predators. One of these predators is the mantis! It is a natural predator of aphids! Just leave a few mantis around and they will eat the aphids. This will encourage more mantis to come and live in your garden!
Now that you know how to attract these fascinating creatures, you’ve got to make sure you know how to catch one! Mantises are notoriously hard to catch. If you try to catch one normally, it will just stick out its arms and legs and hold still. It might even pretend to be dead! That’s why you need to try the following:
1.Spray the mantis with water. This will confuse it and it won’t know which way to run.
2.Blind it by flicking a small amount of dirt in its eyes. Mantises can’t see very well and this will make it much easier to catch.
3.Use a net to wrap up the mantis as it tries to escape.
Once you’ve got your own mantis, what are you going to do with it?
Well, not much really. Mantises don’t make very good pets since they only live for a few weeks and they don’t do much. It’s more of a cool novelty to show all your friends. Or if you really like mantises, you could raise a whole bunch and release them into the wild to help control the aphid population!
Sources & references used in this article:
Calling behaviour in the female praying mantis, Hierodula patellifera by B Perez – Physiological Entomology, 2005 – Wiley Online Library
Natural templates for coiled-coil biomaterials from praying mantis egg cases by AA Walker, S Weisman, T Kameda… – …, 2012 – ACS Publications
Observations on the winter survival of the praying mantis, Orthodera ministralis (Mantodea: Mantidae), in Auckland by TK Crosby – New Zealand Entomologist, 1984 – Taylor & Francis
Praying mantises: hungry insect heroes by S Markle – 2007 – books.google.com
Religious supplicant, seductive cannibal, or reflex machine? In search of the praying mantis by FR Prete, MM Wolfe – Journal of the History of Biology, 1992 – Springer
Praying Mantis, and: Woman in the Painting by D Laméris – Prairie Schooner, 2020 – muse.jhu.edu
Praying Mantis: A Teacher’s Guide by B Better – 2013 – digitalcommons.calpoly.edu