Most recently reviewed by: Pat Porter (2018)
Common Name(s): Mantis, Praying mantid, Praying Mantis, soothsayer
The praying mantid is a large, elongate, and relatively slow moving insect. They are striking in appearance due to their modified front legs, which are shaped for grasping prey and often held in what appears to be a prayerful pose. Praying mantids have a most flexible neck as well; they are the only insect able to “ look over their shoulders”. They are a voracious predatory insect, and are often considered a beneficial insect due to their propensity for eating other insects. They are usually shades green or brown, and the adults of several of the species in North America have wings. There are 17 species total found in North America, and all but one belong to the Mantidae family (Triplehorn and Johnson, 2005).
Adult praying mantids are solitary and territorial, but they do not have a high propensity for eating their mates. The mantids in the study that led to this common myth were underfed specimens.
Origin and Distribution
Some of the most commonly seen species, the Chinese mantis, the narrow winged mantis, and the European mantis, are introduced species. The Carolina mantis is a common native species in the southern United States.
Habitat & Hosts
Praying mantids are highly predaceous, and will eat a variety of other insects.
Mantids have a simple life cycle, the female lays an egg mass, an ootheca, which is a foamy structure that hardens into a styrofoam like structure containing 200 or more eggs. The egg case is the only part of the life cycle that can survive a frost and overwinter (Triplehorn and Johnson, 2005).
Once the nymphs of the praying mantid start emerging from the egg case, they begin to disperse in search of food. The small wingless nymphs are also voracious predators that will find organisms smaller than themselves to eat (Milne and Milne, 1980).
The adult stage of the praying mantid in several species has wings, and some can fly. Females tend to have shorter wings and heavier bodies, so are not as competent fliers as their male counterparts.
ManagementIf you live in the State of Texas, contact your local county agent or entomologist for management information. If you live outside of Texas, contact your local extension for management options.
Mantids and other beneficial insects can be conserved by avoiding the use of broad-spectrum insecticides like synthetic pyrethroids.
“Mantids.” National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders, by Lorus Johnson Milne et al., A.A. Knopf, 1980, pp. 395–398.
“Order Mantodea.” Borror and DeLong’s Introduction to the Study of Insects, by Charles A. 5046387327 et al., Thompson Brooks/Cole, 2005, pp. 260–262.