Praying Mantis Fact File
The praying mantis is alternatively known as the European mantis but enjoys a wide range across parts of Asia, Europe and Africa. Introduced populations also exist in North America.
These insects are carnivores which make use of their strong front legs to seize insects which are then eaten live while being held in the arms.
Praying mantis young emerge from their eggs resembling a smaller version of the adult. As they grow they molt their old exoskeleton and a new, larger one grows in underneath.
Across their range localized populations are threatened by factors such as habitat loss and direct killing due to perceived threats. Despite this their population is considered stable.
Praying mantis have a body which is colored green or brown with dark spotting on the forelegs. Their coloration is helpful for providing camouflage with their surroundings.
Their head is triangular in shape and can turn a wide range to help them see.
The praying mantis has a pair of large compound eyes. These can be used to give them binocular vision allowing them to strike their prey with deadly accuracy. This vision gives them a precise picture of what is happening to the front and side of them.
Praying mantis are named for the way that they stand on the back four legs with the front two legs raised in front of the body. These front legs are lined with sharp spines which help to prevent prey from escaping their grip.
Tucked away on their back are two pairs of wings which extend out past the abdomen.
Adult males tend to be slender with longer wings and antennae when compared to the female.
Praying mantis are carnivores. They feed on a range of insects. This includes helping to control populations of harmful insects such as flies and mosquitos.
They are regularly seen to cannibalize members of their own species.
Prey is caught in the front arms of the praying mantis. They can strike out and grab the prey in tenths of a second. Once it is seized between the front legs they will tear off the head and eat it.
Contrary to a popular belief the praying mantis has poison it does not. Instead they will devour their prey alive.
As their alternative common name, European mantis, suggests this species is a native of Europe but they can also be found in Africa and Asia. Here they live in the following countries – Afghanistan; Albania; Algeria; Andorra; Armenia; Austria; Azerbaijan; Bangladesh; Belarus; Belgium; Bhutan; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Botswana; Brunei Darussalam; Bulgaria; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Cambodia; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; China; The Democratic Republic of the Congo; Croatia; Cyprus; Czechia; Côte d'Ivoire; Denmark; Djibouti; Egypt; Eritrea; Estonia; Eswatini; Ethiopia; France; Gabon; Gambia; Georgia; Germany; Ghana; Gibraltar; Greece; Guinea; Hungary; Japan; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Korea, Democratic People's Republic of; Kuwait; Kyrgyzstan; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Lebanon; Lesotho; Liberia; Libya; Lithuania; Macao; Madagascar; Malawi; Malaysia; Mali; Malta; Mauritania; Moldova; Montenegro; Morocco; Mozambique; Myanmar; Namibia; Nepal; Netherlands; Niger; Nigeria; North Macedonia; Oman; Pakistan; Palestine, State of; Poland; Portugal; Qatar; Romania; Russia; Rwanda; San Marino; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Serbia; Sierra Leone; Slovakia; Slovenia; Somalia; South Africa; South Sudan; Spain; Sri Lanka; Sudan; Switzerland; Syrian Arab Republic; Taiwan, Province of China; Tajikistan; Tanzania; Thailand; Togo; Tunisia; Turkey; Turkmenistan; Uganda; Ukraine; United Arab Emirates; Uzbekistan; Viet Nam; Yemen; Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Along with the native population introduced populations have established in Canada and the United States.
Their introduction to the eastern US came in 1899 on plants being sent to a nursery. They were observed to hunt gypsy moth caterpillars and more were introduced in hopes they could act as a control for this species.
Praying mantis can be found in savanna, shrubland, grassland and desert. Adults can tolerate high temperatures found in semi-desert areas.
They may live alongside humans in urban environments.
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Females deposit over 100 eggs in a mass on to a leaf or twig. They remain here over winter and hatch late in to the spring.
These animals are known for the females habit of eating her partner. This is thought to provide the energy needed to produce the egg sac.
When young emerge from the egg they resemble a smaller version of the adult. Thy will molt their exoskeleton as they grow and develop in to an adult individual.
Females first mate 2 to 4 weeks after molting to adulthood.
European mantis are considered solitary and will only come together to mate.
Predators and Threats
No assessment of the praying mantises global population has been created. Despite this it is clear that they are one of the common species in the order Mantodea.
Some recognized threats to the species include habitat reduction and direct interference in their lifecycle including the destruction of their egg cases. Some people view the species as poisonous and kill them intentionally as a result.
They do throw a small amount of tolerance for urbanization and can live alongside humans where the environment is not intensively used.
Some are also bred to be used as a pest control agent and is sold as an ootheca. This includes their use on Christmas tree farms to control grasshopper populations.
In some of their range countries the praying mantis are offered legal protection and as such cannot be collected.
The praying mantis is also known as the European mantis.
Naturpress, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Alvesgaspar, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Christian Ferrer, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Mizael Contreras, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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