7 Strange Facts About Praying Mantises

Have you ever seen a praying mantis waiting with eerie stillness to catch its next victim? Itís hard not to do a double take when you see one of these large, human-like insects.

Their name refers to the insectsí imposing front legs that are bent at an angle as if they are folded in prayer. There are approximately 2,000 different species of praying mantises throughout the world, and their mystique is global.

French folklore suggests a praying mantis can point a lost child back to her home. In Arabic and Turkish cultures, a mantis was thought to point towards Mecca. In Africa, the mantis was fabled to restore life to the dead. And they are used to treat a number of illnesses in China, such as impotence and thyroid enlargement.

Here are some lesser known facts about these intriguing insects.

Baby with adult sized

Most mantises in the U.S. are not native.

The vast majority of mantises live in the tropics. Only 18 native species have ever been discovered on the entire North American continent. All the rest are imported species.

Theyíre the only insect able to turn its head 180 degrees side-to-side.

Praying mantises have a unique, flexible joint between their head and prothorax that allows them to swivel their heads. This creepy trait makes a mantis seem even more humanoid when it can turn its head and look at you.

Side profile sized

They can see movement up to 60 feet away.

The praying mantis is the only insect known to have the ability to see in three dimensions, the same as humans. When you add this to their ability to rotate their head, itís clear why they are accomplished hunters.

Females sometimes eat their mates.

Perhaps the most sensational fact about mantises is how the females are known to devour their mates during intercourse. This seems to occur most often when the female is hungry, but eating the maleís head also causes the body to ejaculate faster.

Gory details aside, most instances of sexual cannibalization occur in a laboratory setting. In the wild, scientists believe the male only gets eaten 5-30 percent of the time. During one experiment, a mantis pair was observed in copulation for an average of six hours, and the male flew away after mating.

Mantis eating sized

Theyíre not selective eaters.

Mantises are often touted as a great beneficial insect. Itís true theyíre skilled predators, but before you introduce them to your yard, be aware they donít stop at a few pesky aphids or cabbage worms.

They have a huge appetite and have been known to eat up to sixteen crickets per day. Mantises prey on many different types of insects, including beneficial ones like bees and ladybugs, as well as small birds, frogs, lizards, and occasionally other mantises.

new born wood mantis and egg case

Mantises overwinter as eggs in colder climates.

Praying mantis adults typically live 6 to 12 months. In colder climates, the females will lay around 100 to 400 eggs in the fall. They lay the eggs in a frothy liquid that hardens to create a solid case for winter protection. This egg structure is known as an ootheca.

The eggs hatch to become nymphs in the spring, which look like miniature versions of the adults without wings. After molting, the nymph will transform into an adult and get its wings.

Mantisesí cannibalistic tendencies start young. When the eggs hatch in spring, their first meal is often their own sibling.

Mantises are close relatives of cockroaches

Despite their different appearances, praying mantises, termites and cockroaches are all closely related. Entomologists believe these insects have all descended from a common ancestor. Thankfully, praying mantises are not known to infest buildings like their invasive cousins.

Upside down mantis sized

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Dezrae Reynolds
Dezrae Reynoldsabout a year ago

We have praying mantises all over the place where I live. There was quite a storm one year, and I saved one from drowning... He had lost a leg, however. Two weeks later, I found a giant praying mantis sitting on my window late at night catching the bugs who wander near the light of my porch. He was missing a leg. :) It was wonderful to see one come from such a bad situation and live from my help! Love this post!

Sonia M

Interesting post thanks for sharing

Debra Tate
Debra Tate1 years ago

Amazing insects! Thanks.

Francesca A

such amazing insects - I feel privileged to get them in my garden in France.

Tricia Hamilton
Tricia Hamilton2 years ago

Really nice to know

Melania Padilla
Melania P2 years ago

They're gorgeous!

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jim Ven
Jim V3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Joemar Karvelis
Joemar Karvelis3 years ago


Rose Becke
Rose Becke3 years ago