The praying name comes from the position of the front bent legs suggesting a praying position. Not to be confused with preying which they are highly skilled at. The front legs strike prey so fast it’s hard to see with our eyes.The green mantises we see are mostly non-natives, the European and Japanese, imported years ago to help farmers with pest control. You can buy mantises from several outlets to release in your garden. Most of our twenty native mantid species are brownish color. Their triangle heads are placed on an elongated thorax so it looks like they have necks. They can turn their heads about 180 degrees, and with their large compound eyes, keep you or their prey in sight.
In temperate climates mating occurs in fall. Eggs laid in late fall will over-winter in the cases and the young will emerge in the spring when the temperatures rise. Males are drawn to the female’s pheromones, BUT they must be very careful. Many do not survive the mating ritual. If she is hungry (or bored) she will munch her mate, starting with the head, while the mating process continues below. When the eggs are fertilized she lays between 10 and 400, depending on the species, in a case she attaches to a twig or wall.The cases are oozed from her abdomen in a frothy mass of bubbles that she shapes into a case, depositing the eggs as she works. When she is done the case hardens and the eggs are safe inside.
In warmer climates, if something doesn’t find and eat the eggs, after several weeks of warm weather, miniature nymphs looking like teeny adults will crawl out and disburse, finding small aphids or each other to eat.
As they grow they will molt (shed the exoskeleton and form a new, bigger one) 5 to 10 times before becoming an adult with wings and functional genitalia.
Mantid species are found on every continent with temperate or tropical climates.
They live about one year in the wild. Some use mimicry as part of their camouflage technique. This one, from Thailand has a flattened abdomen to look like a leaf. Another on a screen is small and black.