The praying mantis is a very interesting beneficial insect that feeds on garden pests and is fun to watch as they do it. They get their name from the distinctive way their bent front arms are held together in a praying position and the name mantis comes from the Greek word prophet.
Praying mantis have triangular heads that they can turn 180 degrees in their hunt for food and can see up to 50 feet. They are either green or brown and their long slender body resembles a leaf. This helps them hide from hungry birds, bats, lizards and other insect eaters. Praying mantis need to be able to hide to survive, so they won’t be attacked and also in their hunt for food.
Praying Mantis are carnivores and hunt by either slowly stalking their prey or blending in with their surrounding and waiting for something to get to close. Then, when the time is right they strike out with their fore arms faster than a fly can bat it’s wing trying to escape. Their arm have rows of tiny spikes snatching their prey and pinning it in place as they feed. When the mantis first emerge from their eggs in spring they are quite small and so is what they attack as they feed on aphids, spider mites and flies. As they grow and get bigger and so does their prey, by summer they will be feeding on mosquitoes, moths and crickets. And if there is nothing else to feed on they will attack each other. In fact, the female mantis will turn on the male as they mate by biting their neck and feeding to get protein to help egg development.
At the end of her life cycle the female will lay several eggs in the fall. The eggs will overwinter and in spring when temperatures start to warm up up to 200 baby manti will emerge from each egg. They hang from the underside of the egg for several minutes as their arms and legs stiffen, they are very similar to what they will look like as adults. Usually the first mantis out of the egg will wait and feed on the last ones out that cannot defend them self’s.