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Praying Mantis: Key Facts

Did you know that praying mantises are apex predators of the insect world? Or that there are many exotic species of praying mantis found throughout the world? Keep reading to learn more about these and other praying mantis key facts.

Quick Facts About Praying Mantises

Scientific Name:Mantidae
Type of Animal:Insect
Number of Species:About 2,300
Physical Description:Long, slender insects, usually in shades of green, brown, or gray. They have large eyes and triangular heads which can turn and swivel. Their modified forelegs are large and covered in spikes to assist them with hunting; they capture and hold insects with these front legs. Young praying mantises look like miniature versions of the adults. The adults of some species have wings and can fly short distances.
Distribution:Found throughout parts of Asia, Europe, Australia, Africa, and the Americas.
Habitat:Most species live in warm, tropical habitats, though some live in temperate environments as well. They prefer to live in forests and grasslands.
Size:Depends on species; anywhere from 0.5 to 12 inches long. Most range from 2 to 6 inches.
Diet:Opportunistic carnivores; diet can include:
– Insects
– Small birds (e.g. hummingbirds)
– Frogs and lizards
– Fish
– Small mammals
Life Span:About one year
Life Stages:Three:
– Egg
– Nymph
– Adult

How Many Species of Praying Mantis Are There?

There are many different kinds of praying mantis found throughout the world. Only a few species are found in the United States, so you might be surprised to learn just how many types there actually are.

The total number of praying mantis species is thought to be around 2,300. These different species vary greatly in size and appearance, ranging from less than an inch up to 12 inches and taking on some exotic colors including black and pink.

Praying mantises are not native to the U.S. but were brought here most likely by egg sacs that were laid on imported goods. Five species of praying mantis are found in the U.S., and of these, most people are only familiar with two of them: the Chinese mantis and the Carolina mantis. Contrary to some information you may have heard, they are not protected by law.

Check out this video of some unique-looking species of praying mantis:

How Strong is a Praying Mantis?

Praying mantises are incredibly strong insects. They are capable of catching and eating insects that equal and even surpass them in size.

They have no natural predators in the insect world, so they are considered apex predators; in other words, they are at the top of the insect food chain. They are quite smart too.

What’s more, some praying mantises will even eat non-insects. Some of the larger species will also eat small birds, fish, frogs, lizards, and even small mammals such as mice.

Praying mantises have to be exceptionally strong to take down these larger, heavier prey animals. They do not inject venom into their victims; thus they must hold onto their prey with their strong front legs and eat it alive.

Once an insect or animal is caught in the praying mantis’ front legs, it will be hard-put to make an escape. Spikes on the front legs dig into the bodies of the prey, and the mantis’ iron grip makes moving, much less escaping, nearly impossible.

Conclusion

There are over 2,000 species of praying mantis in the world, though only a few of these are present in the U.S. Praying mantises are strong, carnivorous insects known for taking down not only other insects, but small animals as well. If you would like to learn more about them, here is an article about their mating habits.

Don’t forget to read about other forest insects and butterflies – these are our popular guides about tiger swallowtails and wasps.

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