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Praying Mantis’s Essay, Research Paper


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 eat primarily during

the day. An attacking mantid ?undulates?, and sways just before

a strike. Some experts believe this swaying action mimics the

movement of the surrounding folliage due to gusts of wind.

Others believe this swaying aids in the mantid visually focusing

on the prey. Mantids hunt by the ?sit and wait? method or by

the slow stalk method. The ?sit and wait? can sometimes take

hours, waiting for an unsuspecting victim to come within an arms

length. The slow stalk method is pretty self explanitory.

Mantids attack by ?pinching?, impaling prey between its spiked

lower tibia and upper femur. The mantids strike takes an

amazing 30 to 50 one-thousanth of a second. The strike is so

fast it can?t be proccessed by the human brain. Once the prey

is secured with its legs the mantid chews at the preys neck. If

well fed, the mantid will selectively choose to eat certain

Peters 5

parts of its prey and discard the rest. If any part of the prey

is dropped while feeding the mantis will not retrieve it. After

feeding, they will often use their mouth to clean the food

particles from the spines of it?s tibia, and then wipe their

face clean similar to cats.

The cannibalistic instincts of mantids are probably what

give order mantodea a reputation for being such cold hearted

killers. All stages of growth partake in cannibalistic

activities, from nymph to adult, whether adult eats nymph or

nymph eats nymph. After mating the female will often eat her

mate. Between 5-31% of males get devoured during the mating

process. A female mantis already heavy with eggs will excrete a

chemical attractant to tempt a willing male into mating. The

horny and always willing male will almost always get sucked in.

The males sperm cells are stored in the spermatheca of the

female. The female can begin to lay her eggs as early as the

day after fertilization. As the eggs pass through her

reproductive system, they are fertilized by the stored sperm.

After finding a raised location, like a branch or stem, special

appendages at the base of the abdomen (ventral valve maybe)

create a gelatinous egg material into the shape characteristic

of the particular species as it exits her ovipositor.

The egg laying process takes 3 to 5 hours long. By

instinct the female twists her abdomen in a spiral motion to

create chambers within the ootheca. The egg case then hardens

Peters 6

into a paper mache like substance that is resistant to pests who

would try and eat it. There are small air pockets between each

cell of the ootheca which aids in insulation against cold

winters. There can be anywhere from 30 to 300 eggs laid in a

sitting. Often times the female dies after her final birthing.

The life-cycle of the North American mantid species runs

from spring to fall. When spring time temperatures become

favorable the mantid nymphs emerge from the ootheca. They drop

towards the ground on a thin strand of stringy material produced

by a special gland in their body. Mantid nymphs are

hemimetabolous. Mantid nymphs appear like small adults, but

without fully-formed wings. Nymphs go through 6 to 7 molts

before they reach adulthood. Emerging nymphs feed on whatever

small insects they can get their claws on, including their

brothers and sisters.

The primary enemies to mantids are spiders, birds, snakes,

mammals(especially bats), and man. The mantis has four primary

methods for defense. The mantids green and brown exo-skeleton

color help aid in camouflage. The mantids ability to stand

perfectly still for extremely long periods of time cause it to

be over looked by predators. When confronted by an enemy the

mantis asumes the ?startle display?, rearing it?s fore legs up

and spread apart, and rattling its wings. The ultrasonic ear is

also a form of defense for the mantis.

Insect Pest Management or IPM is a subject of research

Peters 7

that is really starting to take notice throughout the world.

It?s becoming apparent that the over use of chemical pesticides

is ruining our Earths ecology. Finding alternative methods of

pest control besides the use of pesticides is imperative if we

expect to keep this planet in good condition. Numerous cases of

IPM have been initiated and have proved to work. The praying

mantis plays an important role in nature?s insect pest control

plan. The praying mantis is one of the few predators with that

are fast enough to catch mosquitos and flies while their in

flight. Moth populations are also controlled by mantids.

There are three common species of mantids found in North

America. The European mantis (Mantis religiosa), the Chinese

mantis (Tenodera aridifolia sinesis), and the Carolina mantis

(Stagmomantis carolina).

The European mantis is usually 2-3 inches in length, and

has a consistently bright green color. These are distinguished

as the only of the three species that bear a black-ringed spot

beneath the fore coxae. The European mantids are most often

found east of The Mississippi River. It is said that the

European mantids were first introduced into North America in

Rochester New York in 1899 on a shipment of nursery plants.

The Chinese mantis is the largest of the three native to

North America reaching lengths up to five inches. This species

is mostly light brown with a dull green trim around its wings.

The Chinese mantis can be found throughout the United States.

Peters 8

The Chinese mantis arrived in 1895 on nursery stock sent to

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Carolina mantis is the smallest of the three never

reaching a length greater than 2 inches. This mantis has a

dusky brown or gray color to blend in with the pine forests and

and sandhills of Southeastern part of the U.S. An interesting

feature of the Carolina mantis is that the wings which only

extend 3/4 of the way down the abdomen.

There are many myths and legneds asscociated with mantids.

For thousands of years they have captured our imagination, and

curiosity. The word mantis comes from ancient greece and means

?diviner? or ?prohpet?. Many cultures have credited the mantid

with a variety of magical qualities. In the southern portion of

the U.S. it is believed that if the brown saliva of a mantis

ever comes in contact with you, you?ll go blind. This mystical

saliva also has the potential to kill a horse.

In France it is believed that if a lost child is ever in

the woods and can?t find his way home the praying stance of the

mantid will direct them toward safety. The Turks and Arabs

believe the mantid always prays toward Mecca. During the

European Middle-ages it was thought that the mantis was a great

worshiper of god due to the great amounts of time spent in

prayer. In China it is believed that the roasted egg cases of

mantids will cure bed wetting in people. In Africa, if a mantid

Peters 9

ever lands on someone it will bring that person good luck. It

is also believed that the mantis possess the power to bring the

dead back to life.

Type in praying mantis on most any search engines and

you?ll be able to find numerous amounts of info. But 80% of

most of these praying mantis sites are all related to the

praying mantis style of kung-fu. To find any decsent info on

the praying mantis, you must type in the latin name.

Many legends are told about the origins of praying mantis

kung-fu. There is no disputing the fact that Wang Lang invented

Plum Blossom Praying Mantis Boxing. The one legend that seems

to be found at most web-sites describing the history of Praying

Mantis Kungfu is the one about Wang Lang?s hiking trip through

the Lao Shan mountains of China. After a recent devasting loss

in a kungfu fight Wang needed some time to himself. While

resting on a log he noticed two mantids fighting. Their

quickness, patience, and flexibility intrigued Wang. Using

those same ideas, and techniques used by the mantids he

developed praying mantis kungfu.

Peters 10

1). Profotilov, Hya. History of Praying Mantis Kungfu,


2). Watkins, Gary. Praying Mantids,


3). The Care of Mantids, www.insect-world.com/main/mantids.html

4). Bragg, Phil. Praying mantis Care Notes,


5). Johnson, Sylvia. Mantises, Minneapolis: Lerner Publications

Company, 1984.

6). Hess, Lilo. The praying Mantis: Insect Cannibal, New York:

Charles Scribner and Sons, 1971.

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