A merciless predator at prayer
A praying mantis, or praying mantid, is the common name for an insect of the order Mantodea. They are named after the distinctive way they hold their front legs up and together, as if in prayer. The word mantis derives from the Greek word 'mantis' for prophet or fortune teller. Praying mantis can be found in all parts of the world with mild winters and sufficient vegetation.
Like all insects, a praying mantis has a 3 segmented body, with a head, thorax and abdomen. The abdomen is elongated and covered by the wings in adults. Being a carnivorous insect, the mantis feeds primarily on other insects. However, it is not uncommon for larger mantids to consume small reptiles and even small mammals or birds.
To capture prey, mantids 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 and devour it alive. The natural lifespan of a praying mantis is about 2 years.
They are able to turn their head 180 degrees for excellent vision and hearing. Their antennae are used for smell.
The predators of the praying mantis are not limited to other animals because praying mantids will eat other mantids. This cannibalistic behavior is usually during the nymph stage and during mating, with the male likely to provide a feast for the female.
Your chances of seeing one in the wild
Most North American mantis are not included among endangered species, but species in other parts of the world are under threat from habitat destruction.