Praying Mantis

Nicrophorus marginatus, Burying Beetle


Kingdom       Animalia
Phylum        Arthropoda
Class         Insecta
Order         Mantodea
Family        Mantidae
Common Name   Praying Mantises



One of the praying mantis' most important adaptations for survival and success is their ability to blend in with their surroundings, making them "masters of disguise." Some look similar to leaves, parts of trees, and even flowers. Their colors vary from green to pinks, with many being pea green to brown, depending on the environment they are in. The praying mantis range from 1 to about 30 cm in length. They have a triangular shaped head with a large compound eye on each side. They have straight, leathery wings, a long prothorax, and spiny front legs held together in a praying manner.

Natural History

The life cycle of the praying mantis is hatching from an egg to a nymph that contains on average six to seven instars before finally becoming an adult.

The habitats of praying mantis are warm temperate areas, but can vary. They are found in gardens, farms, forest, and deserts.

The mantid is a predacious feeder. It sits and waits for its prey with its front arms raised, giving it the appearance of praying. This is what gave rise to its common name "Praying Mantis."

The defense of mantids is their ability to camouflage themselves to their environment. If a predator, such as a bat, is near to the mantid, it can elude it with acrobatic tactics and great hearing ability.

Mantids breed in temperate areas during the summer season. Since the head of the male mantid inhibits his sex drive, the female mantid must bite his head off so the he can breed with her. After mating, she will continue to feast on the male.

The females lay groups of 12-400 eggs during the autumn season in a hard protective shell for survival during winter. The young mantids emerge during spring and their first meal is of their own siblings. It will take an entire summer for a mantid to mature into adulthood. One generation develops each season.

The praying mantis does not interact much with other insects or within their own species because it is such a predator.

The diet of the praying mantis consists of insects, small invertebrates, and vertebrates. It consists of other mantids, beetles, butterflies, aphids, flies, moths, caterpillars, spiders, crickets, grasshoppers, small tree frogs, lizards, mice, hummingbirds, and nesting birds.

Mantids are thought to be pests, but in many cases this is not true. The mantid can be beneficial to the biocontrol of other pest insects and aid with agriculture or common gardens. The problem though is that a mantid cannot distinguish between a pest and non-pest insect and may become a pest itself.


Mantids are widely distributed throughout the world in tropical, subtropical, and in the warm temperates. There are many species found in different areas such as South Africa, Europe, the southern parts of Asia, North and South America, and some parts of Australia. It is also found in our own Chihuahuan Desert.

Other Notes

There are about 2,000 known species of mantids around the world; there are 20 species in United States and Canada. The praying mantis is a carnivorous insect. It is also the only insect that can turn its head side to side at a full 180 degree angle. They have one ear located on the ventral midline of the metathoratic legs, and it has an ultrasonic sense that can hear noise up to 60 feet away. Another interesting fact is that the praying mantis is the state insect for Connecticut, and it is great for use in experimentation.


Amato, Ivan. 1991. Praying mantises plays top gun. Science.

Anonymouse. 1953. Praying mantis preys on insects. Science News-Letter, Science Service, Inc.

Borror, Triplehorn, and Johnson. 1989. An introduction to the study of insects. Sixth edition. Saunders College Publishing.

Hurd, L. E., R. M. Eisenberg, W. F. Fagan, K. J. Tilmon, K. J. Tilmon, W. E. Snyder, K. S. Vandersall, S G. Datz, and J. D. Welch. 1994. Cannibalism reverses male-biased sex ratio in adult mantids: Female strategy against food limitation? Oikos.

Loft, Horace. 1956. Nature ramblings: Ferocity contest. Science News-Letter, Science Service, Inc.

Moran, Matthew D., and L. E. Hurd. 1994. Environmentally determined male-biased sex ratio in a praying mantid. American Midland Naturalist.

Roeder, K. D. 1935. An experimental analysis of the sexual behavior of the praying mantis (Mantis religiosa L.). Biological Bulletin, Marine Biological Laboratory.

Roeder, K. D. 1936. Raising the praying mantis for experimental purposes. Science.

Thone, Frank. 1928. Nature ramblings: Praying mantis. Science News-Letter, Science Service, Inc.

Yager, David D. 1986. The cyclopean ear: A new sense for the praying mantis. Science.


Photos provided by Paul Lenhart.

This webpage was created by Mona Abdelfattah and Arlene Perez in partial fulfillment of Entomology, 2007, University of Texas at El Paso. The views in this webpage are based on our research and may not reflect the views of the University of Texas system.