These fascinating creatures are not just interesting to look at – they have many unique characteristics that make them one of the most remarkable insects in the world. From their intense eyes and mysterious posture to their incredible predatory skills, praying mantises are truly impressive creatures. In this article, we’ll explore 9 amazing facts about praying mantis, also referred to as mantids, including their anatomy and behavior, as well as how they use camouflage and prey on other insects.
9 Unique Facts About Praying Mantis
1. Praying mantises have triangular-shaped heads and bulging eyes
Praying mantises have a unique vision that has enabled them to survive in the wild for millions of years. The shape of their heads and wide eyes give them an impressive range of vision, allowing them to spot both prey and danger from far away.
They have a specialized type of vision called “binocular” vision. This means that they can see an object in three dimensions, with their eyes each having a field of view of over 180 degrees.
Not only does this provide them with depth and distance perception, but it also allows them to judge the speed and direction of a potential threat. Their vision also gives them the edge in fighting off predators, as they are able to quickly identify which direction danger is coming from and move accordingly.
The predatory skills of the praying mantis have allowed it to remain a successful species even in the face of often harsh environmental conditions.
2. A praying mantis has a segmented body
The segmented body of the praying mantis allows it to move quickly and efficiently. The head is used for locating prey and avoiding predators, while the thorax is responsible for movement.
The abdomen houses the internal organs and reproductive system. This segmentation also enables them to move with ease, allowing them to blend in among plants or branches in order to better ambush their prey or hide from predators.
3. The front legs of a praying mantis are adapted for catching prey
Praying mantises have highly specialized front legs designed for catching prey. They are armed with sharp spines and powerful muscles, allowing them to capture their prey quickly and efficiently.
The praying mantis has a unique inner joint in its front leg that allows it to bend forward at an angle of nearly 180°. This provides extra reach and power, allowing the mantis to snatch its prey with ease.
The spines on the front legs also act like hooks, helping the mantis hold onto its meal until it can be eaten. The praying mantis has incredible balance due to its ability to use its native body shape and posture to stay in place while attacking prey.
4. They can rotate their heads 180 degrees
These insects are known for their ability to rotate their heads a full 180 degrees. This is an adaptation that helps the mantis locate prey and predators, as they can keep watch over a wide area without needing to move their bodies.
The praying mantis has five eyes: two large compound eyes on either side of its head, and three smaller, simple eyes called ocelli in the middle. What’s more, the praying mantis can move its head independently of its body, allowing it to watch for predators or prey from any angle.
5. Camouflage is one of their best defenses
The praying mantis has evolved to blend in with its environment, making it extremely difficult to spot by both predators and prey. The body and legs of the praying mantis are covered with small spines that help break up its outline and make it harder to detect.
In addition, the mantis can change its color in a subtle manner to match the surrounding vegetation more closely. This is done by altering the number of pigment cells under its exoskeleton, giving it an almost chameleon-like ability to blend in with its environment.
6. Some praying mantises fly
The ability of a praying mantis to fly is determined by its wings; most species have two sets of wings: the front pair is strong and rigid, allowing them to take flight. The back set of wings is often much thinner and helps with steering while in the air.
Some praying mantises have wings that are used mostly for gliding, while others have wings that allow them to conduct short bursts of flight. Many species can fly up to distances of 10 meters or more in one go!
Often, it is the males that are able to fly rather than the females. Males have more muscular bodies and shorter wings, which helps with taking flight. Whether or not a mantid can fly is determined by age, species, body weight, and sex.
7. Wild populations of praying mantises only live for one year
These short-lived insects rely on breeding another generation of mantids for the continuation of their population. However, some species can live up to two years depending on environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, and availability of food sources.
During the winter months, they usually enter a hibernation-like state known as diapause, which allows them to survive cold temperatures until spring returns. Because wild populations of praying mantises typically only live for one year, their numbers tend to stay relatively stable and non-problematic.
8. Female mantids exhibit sexual cannibalism
Female mantids have a rather interesting mating behavior. In some species, the female will consume the male during or after mating. This phenomenon is known as sexual cannibalism and has been studied in over 2,000 species of insects.
Generally speaking, the female mantid will eat her partner when she is hungry and needs additional nutrition for egg production, or if the male does not provide sufficient nutrients during the mating process.
In some cases, males have even been known to perform a “mating dance” in which they present themselves as easy targets for their female partner’s meal. Despite this seemingly gruesome behavior, sexual cannibalism is considered to be beneficial, overall, to both partners, because it increases the female’s reproductive success and the male’s genetic contribution to the next generation.
9. Praying mantises are considered beneficial insects
Mantids are considered beneficial insects in gardens and farms, as they feed on many destructive garden pests such as aphids and caterpillars. They also provide natural pest control, reducing the need for chemical pesticides that can be harmful to other beneficial insects or organisms. When present in large numbers, praying mantises can reduce the population of insect pests to levels that do not harm the crops.