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Praying Mantis

Praying mantises, or praying mantids, are carnivorous insects. There are about 2,000 different types of mantids. The biggest are over 15 cm long and the smallest are about 1 cm long.Mantids are found in warm to hot places in most continents of the world. It gets its name from the way it holds its front forelegs up as though it is praying.


The front legs have rows of sharp spines which are used to grip prey. Mantids have a triangular shaped head with a large eye on each side that can see the slightest movement up to 35m away. It is the only insect that can turn its head 180º. It has excellent hearing. Mantids have straight leathery wings and powerful jaws.


Mantids depend on camouflage for their survival. There are many predators, including birds, that they must hide from. Most kinds of mantid have a hollow space inside their bodies, which helps them hear the high-pitched sounds that bats, one of their main predators, make.


The mantid stays motionless on a leaf or stem, well camouflaged as it waits for prey. It grabs the prey with its strong front legs, bites the head off and eats its prey. Mantids eat beetles, spiders, grasshoppers, crickets, small vertebrates such as tree frogs, lizards and mice. They also eat other mantids!


After mating with a male, a female mantid lays groups of 14-100 eggs, in a froth that hardens to protect the eggs through the winter. The young mantids, called nymphs, hatch in the spring. Often their first meal is one of the other young just hatching. Nymphs eat leafhoppers, aphids or small flies. All through the summer they shed their skin many times as they grow into adults.


Although some people think praying mantises are pests, they do actually keep down the number of other insects in the garden or farm, often the ones that do harm to plants and crops.

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