Praying Mantis's

Most commonly known as the Praying Mantis, order mantodea
is a group of about 1800 carnivorous insects which prodominatley
live in tropical regions of the earth. Though certain species
can be found in locations with moderate climate. With an
extremely striking appearence, mantids almost have human like
qualities with the ability to hold an erect stance, and arms
that face forward. A very efficient killer, mantids were
created for hunting and killing prey.
Order Mantodea is in the subclass Pterygota. As with all
classifications there can be debates on where certain orders or
species belong. Historically there has been some confusion on
whether Mantodea deserves there own order. Some experts have
placed Mantodea in the dictyoptera order along with cock roaches
(Ramel 1996, Jaques 1981, Phoenix Zoo). Others say mantids
belong in Orthoptera, which consists of grasshoppers. Experts
say this is due to their large pro notum (Stokes 1983, Borror
and White 1970). The emerging consensus around the position of
Mantodea believes Mantodea constitute their own independent
order of insects.
Mantids can be characterized by their triangular head, and
filiform antennae. This head has the ability to turn 180
degrees. With their prominate pair of compound eyes located on
Peters 2
the sides of the head, the mantis can almost see 360 degree's
around. However the sharpest vision is located in the compound
eye's center, for the mantis to optimaly see objects it must
turn its head so that the eye is facing the object. These eyes
are extremely sensitive to light, changing from light green or
tan in bright light, to dark brown in the dark.
The prothorax of the mantis is another aid in giving them
their distintive appearence. This prothorax has the ability to
bend and twist which aids in the mantids ability to see close
to 360 degrees around.
The two long ?raptorial? front legs are adapted to seize
and hold prey. The coxa connects the tibia which has sharp
spines to firmly hold prey. The femur has matching groves where
the spine on the tibia fold into. This creates a ?jack knife?
effect that allows the insect to assume it's distinctive praying
The other four legs of the mantis are designed for
locomotion. These legs can regenerate if broken, but only in
the molting process. These limbs that regenerate are always
smaller than they were originally. A full grown adult that no
longer molts no longer possess the ability to regenerate limbs.
The front ?raptorial? limbs do not regenerate if broken.
Because of their large bulky bodies mantids are fairly
weak flyers. They have four pairs of wings. The first pair are
leathery tegmina wings that lay over the inner pair. The
Peters 3
mambrenous inner pair are folded under the first pair and are
used for flight and to startle enemies.
The large segmented abdomen houses the digestive system
and reproductive organs. The male mantis has 8 segments, and
the females are born with 8 segments as well. But with each
succesive molt in the female the last two segments begin to
overlap resulting with 6 segments left.
Sixty percent of mantid species possess an ultrasonic ear
on the under side of the metathorax, especially those that have
wings. The mantid is an ?auditory cyclops?, which means it only
has one ear. The ear is 1mm long with cuticle like knobs at
either end and two ear drums buried inside. The ear is
specially tuned to very high ultrasonic freqeuncies of sound
waves from 25 to 65 kilohertz. Apparently, the ears primary
purpose is designed to respond to the ultrasonic echo-location
signal used by hunting bats.
The mantis primarily uses its ultrasonic ears while in
flight. When a mantis senses a bat's ultrasonic echo at close
range, it curls it's abdomen upwards and thrusts its legs
outward creating a drag and resulting in a sudden aerial stall.
This flight manuever of the mantis creates an unpredictable
flight pattern for the bat, and is very effective at avoiding
hungry bats.
There are three ways to distinguish between female and
male mantodea. The male has 8 segments, while the female has
Peters 4
The second is size, the female is always bigger than the
male. The third is behavior, the male mantis is more prone to
take flight in search of a mate, while the female often remains
Mantids are extremely predacious feeders, only eating live
prey, or prey that is moving, and hence appears alive. Varying
on the species, you can see what diet preferences are. Some
species only eat ?soft bodied bugs?, insects that can be easily
devoured. While some species will eat anything from small birds
to reptiles.
Mantids are diurnal, which means they