The common name, praying mantis, is derived from the Greek word for ‘prophet’ or ‘soothsayer’ and comes from the spiny, raptorial forelegs that give it the characteristic praying posture when stationary – making it look like a praying person.
The Praying Mantis is found in many differing habitats. They are generally located in the warmer regions, particularly tropical and subtropical latitudes. Most species live in the tropical rainforest, although others can be found in deserts, grasslands and meadowlands.
The praying mantis is a large, elongate, and relatively slow-moving insect. They are striking in appearance due to their modified front legs, which are shaped for grasping prey and often held in what appears to be a prayerful pose. Praying mantis have a most flexible neck as well; they are the only insect able to “ look over their shoulders”
They are usually shades green or brown, and the adults of several of the species in North America have wings. There are more than 2,000 species of mantis in the world, 17 species total found in North America, and all but one belong to the Mantidae family. One species, the California mantis, is native to the west coast and is found in Oregon.
Praying Mantises usually appear in early to mid Fall, generally around the end of September through the first part of October. Females will lay their eggs which will hatch in the springtime. Newly emerging nymphs will go through several stages until they develop into adults.
They are a voracious predatory insect and are often considered a beneficial insect due to their propensity for eating other insects. A praying mantis has a very big appetite, so it’s fortunate that it is also an accomplished hunter. These magnificent insects help farmers and gardeners by eating moths, mosquitoes, roaches, flies and aphids, as well as small rodents in their fields and gardens.
Sex and Life cycles
Females are larger than males and during mating it is best for males to be on top of females to avoid sexual cannibalism. In sexual cannibalism, when both sexes are facing each other during copulation, the female tends to feed off the male’s head; a female may eat a male’s head during or after mating. However, copulation is not disturbed; the male survives and completes copulation. The ability of the male to complete copulation is due to strong copulatory reflexes.
The development of common green mantises consists of three developmental stages: eggs, nymphs and adult stage; which is referred to as incomplete metamorphosis. The female lays its eggs on a leaf or branch or on the ground. The eggs are encased in a soft, foamy ootheca – a protective case of eggs containing 10–400 eggs. The egg case is boat-shaped and made of a series of vertical chambers, where each chamber contains a single egg. It protects the eggs during harsh conditions. The eggs hatch during spring since warmth expedites the hatching.
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