Praying Mantis Information
Praying Mantises are part of a very large family of insects that contain over 2,400 species in nine families that live all over the world in both temperate and tropical climates. Most of the species are in the family Mantidae, which is the creature we offer and which is what most of us think of when we hear the name, "Praying Mantis."
The closest relatives of mantises are termites and cockroaches, and the three are sometimes even ranked as an order rather than suborder. Confused? Well, the entire family order and suborder of these insects is the subject of ongoing debate in the entomology world.
The name praying mantis refers to the prayer-like stance of the insect (the name is often misspelled as "preying" mantis because they are predatory). Praying mantises are often confused with phasmids (stick-leaf insects) and other elongated insects, such as grasshoppers.
Mantises have two grasping, spiked forelegs called "raptorial legs" in which prey items are caught and held securely (see left image). The movement of the head is also remarkably flexible, permitting nearly 300 degrees of movement in some species and allowing for a great range of vision without the need to move their bodies.
The structure of the compound eye creates the illusion of a small pupil, which seems to make the mantis more appealing and relatable to humans. As their hunting relies heavily on vision, they are primarily diurnal, meaning active during the daytime.
CULTURAL & RELIGIOUS MEANING
In many cultures, the praying mantis is a symbol of good luck which can come in various forms. This is a superstition or belief that can be found in almost all corners of the world. It is also a symbol of calmness, focus and concentration. In the Biblical interpretation, mantises symbolize the presence of guardians and angels as well as piety and prayer. In paganism, they symbolize wisdom and divination.
And yet in other cultures, seeing a mantis means you'll experience bad luck and they symbolize evil and death. In any case, the cultural and religious interest and focus on the praying mantis speaks to its universal attraction and fascination. It's also understandable that this creature, with its hands clasped "in prayer", lends itself to having spiritual meaning.
Most praying mantises are ambush hunters that wait for prey to wander close enough. With amazing speed, they will then strike out and grab the unfortunate critter with the oversized, claw-like fore limbs that allow them to securely hold the struggling meal. Some species do, however, actually chase their meals down. Some mantids can grow very large and these larger mantid species have been known to prey on fish, birds, snakes, lizards, even rodents. YIKES again!
LIVE FEEDERS FOR YOUR NEWBORN OR JUVENILE MANTIS
FOOD FOR NEWBORN NYMPHS:
Fruit Flies -1/16 inch Wingless
Rice Flour Beetles
AS THEY REACH LARGER SIZE, FEED THEM:
Fruit Flies -1/8 inch Flightless
Superworms, but only for larger species of Mantid
Here at the Praying Mantis Shop, we offer live feeder insects for your pets, so CLICK AWAY AND SHOP!SELF DEFENSE
Although the claws may look big and wicked, they aren't much in the way of providing protection. Praying mantises have little in the way of self-defense except for the use of camouflage.
They are protected simply by remaining still (which they can do very well) and blending into their surroundings, with most species making use of protective coloring to match their surrounding foliage or substrate. Many mantis species will also fan their wings out when directly threatened, which makes them seem larger and more menacing to other predators.
And yet some other species may hiss at would-be predators. Praying mantises can bite, but they have no venom. Nearly any large predatory animal, such as bullfrogs, snakes and many reptiles and amphibians will eat a mantis, not to mention your household cat or dog, so be sure to watch out for your buddies!
GARDEN PEST CONTROL
The use of praying mantises as a form of biological pest control is becoming more and more common, as it should. The spraying of chemical poisons in the garden and into our environment is increasingly being seen by folks more negatively, also as should be.
As we know, praying mantises are pretty big eaters. They would love to snack on little morsels of aphid, worm, grub, etc. But beware, the mantid will eat beneficial insects as well, such as lady bug larvae and lace wings.
We DO recommend the use of the praying mantis to control large outbreaks and infestations of harmful insects. Since the mantid is basically a transitory creature, they will soon move on and you'll be left with a pest population devastated by your little helpers.
As a method of biological pest control, praying mantises are great, along with lady bugs, which can also be purchased. You'll definitely want your mantid garden soldiers eating the dreaded tomato hornworm that will devour your tomato vines. Also bad and on the mantis menu: Earwigs and hungry, greedy grasshoppers.
If you would like to introduce the mantis into your garden, you'll want to purchase the egg cases. Three egg cases per 5,000 square feet of garden area is the generally accepted dosage. Start putting them out early spring and repeat with new egg cases every few weeks. Happy Gardening!
Usually around Fall, the female mantis produces both the egg case (called an ootheca) and the eggs inside of the case. She uses specialized glands to produce a foam-like substance that is extruded while anywhere from 100 to several hundred eggs are laid. Each egg is encompassed in it's own small section of the case. The substance then hardens into a sturdy, protective home until hatching time. The ootheca protects the eggs from both predators and the elements.
The Praying mantis egg cases are attached to branches or leaves in the wild, waiting for Spring. Once the ootheca and eggs are produced, the praying mantis has completed its lifecycle and will die not long afterwards.
The egg case will begin to hatch sometime during late Spring and early Summer when temperatures warm up and the egg case magically comes to life after a chilly winter. The offspring, called nymphs, pop out of the egg case in rapid succession and quickly scatter. They are approximately 4 mm long at "birth." Once having time to "adjust" to the world, they begin to eat. They are voracious eaters all through life. They will sometimes even cannibalize each other if left without enough food. Unlike a typical larva, biologically speaking a nymph's overall form already resembles that of the adult. Nymphs do not enter a pupa or metamorphic stage, although they do molt or shed their skin.
At The Praying Mantis Shop, of course, EGG CASES are available ! Also, we stock a large variety of praying mantis LIVING FOOD as well as other SUPPLIES and EDUCATIONAL ITEMS.
TEN INTERESTING MANTIS FACTS
- Lays Eggs in a Protective Case - The case, called an ootheca, keeps the eggs safe from both predators and the elements. The ootheca also helps regulate temperature and humidity. It is water and wind resistant. It has the appearance of foam and the texture of a peanut.
- Can Rotate Head 180 Degrees - The mantis has evolved so that it can rotate its head for a 300 plus degree view of its surrounding. This gives the mantis the ability to quickly spot both prey and predator. This also make the mantis all that more exotic and interesting.
- Has An Ear on Its Leg - Yep, that's right. The praying mantis, once thought to be deaf, actually possesses a specialized, sensitive auditory organ. The tympanal organ is the hearing system of the mantis. It consists of a membrane stretched across a frame backed by an air sac with sensory perception. Other insects with auditory tympana possess paired, laterally placed ears, but the mantis has only a single ear that is located on its leg. Mantis in flight have been observed using this ear to detect and evade radar from bats.
- Some Female Species Eat Their Mates Afterward - The praying mantis isn't all that picky about what it will munch down. Other insects species, along with the mantis do sometimes devour their mates after mating. It's thought that the benefit of a good meal provides the growing eggs with plenty of nutrients and protein to start out on. Not all mantis species practice this behavior and it can vary with conditions, such as availability of food.
- Is a Master of Disguise and Stealth - Mantises naturally blend into their surroundings. Many different species have evolved to look like different objects of nature. Some look like a leaf, some a stick or branch and some like a flower. The orchid mantis, for example looks like a beautiful, colorful orchid (see image). Adding to their invisibility is that it's in the mantises instinctual nature to remain still. This allows them to evade predators. They also are often waiting, motionless for their prey to wander into their striking range without even noticing them. So staying frozen and blending right into its surrounding gives the mantis a great advantage in life and makes them one of the most formidable predators in the insect world.
- Is Capable of Flight - Some, but not all praying mantis species do have two pairs of wings. But some have wings too small to fly and some species don't have wings at all. Other species of mantis do have big enough wings and can fly, however they rarely do. They can and will fly short distances in order to catch their prey or escape a predator or get out of an uncomfortable situation. They also can display their outstretched wings to look more formidable and scare away a possible threat coming their way.
- Has Superior 3D Vision - Praying mantises have excellent vision. They have two large compound eyes, which are very sensitive to motion. Not only that, but they posses the ability to see in 3 dimensions, which is a rarity in the insect world. The 3D vision allows them to perceive depth and distance very accurately, giving them a distinct advantage as a hunter of prey.
- Closest Relatives are Termites and Cockroaches - The closest relatives of mantises are termites and cockroaches, which are all within the superorder Dictyoptera. Mantises are sometimes confused with stick insects (Phasmatodea) and other elongated insects such as grasshoppers.
Is Known as a Beneficial Insect - The praying mantis is widely used all
over the country for garden pest control. It is a tool for organic gardening because no harmful pesticides are needed. The mantis will feed on many different pests, including worms, various larvae and grubs, beetles, aphids grasshoppers, mites and crickets.
If you would like to introduce the mantis into your garden, you will need to purchase egg cases. Each one may contain hundreds of babies ready to hatch out come Spring and Summer. Three egg cases per 5,000 square feet of garden area is the generally accepted dosage. Start putting them out early spring and repeat with new egg cases every few weeks, whereas some of the individuals may wander out of your garden or be eaten by predators such as lizards. The egg case can be left outside in freezing temperatures and suffer no harm. For most of the country, the oothecae will not hatch outside until the warmth of springtime. If you'd like to get a head start, you can hatch them inside at the appropriate time and then release the nymphs where needed.
- Is a Skilled Hunter - The characteristics that make the mantis a skilled hunter are: Agility and Flexibility, Camouflage, Speed, Sensory Skill, Excellent Vision, Stealth and Precision. In other words, the mantis is a little Ninja.
HOW TO CARE FOR PRAYING MANTIS: FOOD & LOVEMany people LOVE having pet praying mantises. Or, as mentioned above, they make a very useful garden soldier. Don't forget the incredible classroom science project that mantises will make.
THE EGG CASE
The praying mantises may emerge from the egg right away, but you can expect them to take 4-6 weeks to hatch. The case may hatch 100-300 mantises,
If you're hatching your egg inside an enclosure instead of placing it in your garden, place the egg case inside your enclosure. Mantises need plenty of areas to climb around, hide and stalk food, so place vegetation - either living or non-living along with some branches and leaves inside the enclosure. Some type of reptile substrate placed on floor of the enclosure will work well. The egg case should be kept at room temperature. If it's kept chilly, it may take longer to hatch or may not hatch at all. You may also place the case outside amongst the garden foliage if you are using the mantises for biological pest control. Do not let direct sunlight hit the egg case. If humidity is dry, mist the foliage inside the enclosure once or twice to begin and then every few days.
Please be patient, the egg case WILL hatch. The timing of the hatch will vary from egg case to egg case and with conditions such as temperature. Some will hatch quickly and others will take much longer.
After hatching, the egg case does not appear changed in any way. If you have hung the case in your garden, you may or may not see the tiny babies or nymphs near the case. They do scatter quickly and will be difficult to spot. Since mantises are basically transitory, they will roam all parts of your garden and many are sure to leave it altogether. Some may be eaten by birds or lizards. Just be sure there is food in your garden such as aphids. If not, you may be interested in the food items we offer.
Provide the newborn mantises with food and water right away. Be sure to mist the entire inside of the enclosure daily. Our flightless fruit flies can be both fed to your pet mantises in cages and also be sprinkled around the garden for your free-range mantises if their habitat doesn't show much sign of life yet.
This image shows the living juveniles that we also offer here in our shop. They are not newborn nymphs, but have grown some and shed their skin (molted) once or twice. If you just can't wait for the egg to hatch, you'll love the instant gratification of our mantis juveniles. They can be kept as indoor pets or you can release the juveniles into your garden right away to help with pesky pests, such as aphids and worms. Our mantis juveniles are typically stage L2 or L3, meaning they have molted once or twice.
Please visit our mantis food section if you are in need of food for your newly hatched or more mature mantids.
Continue to mist frequently and provide continuous food. The number one cause of failure is not enough food. A fly here and there won't do. They are ambush hunters, so need a good number of victims to regularly come into range. Keep them out of direct sunlight and keep the humidity up by misting. Some of the nymphs will die, which is normal. Or they may be eaten by their brothers or sisters if they are hungry. After a couple of days, separate the number you'll want to keep into individual enclosures. We recommend keeping a manageable number and releasing the rest into your garden or giving them to friend. Or, you may wish to still keep the remaining nymphs in the mass enclosure in case one of the separated individuals die.
As they grow, the mantises will eat larger and larger food and will need more and more room. If you are keeping the praying mantises in one of our enclosures or your own, be sure there is room for them to move around and have their own space from each other. Mantises need places to climb.
Keep in mind that it is best for each mantis to have its own enclosure. Kept together, there is the possibility that they may do each other harm or even try to eat each other. If you do keep multiple mantises in the same cage, be sure to keep them very well fed so they don't become hangry with each other.
Clean your pet's enclosure weekly. Be sure there is always some food, such as our flightless fruit flies available in the enclosure. Beware of slots in the lids of critter keepers or other screen lids. The nymphs will quickly escape through very small openings. Our Mesh Enclosure will ensure that the newborns and flightless flies don't get out.
Keep the mantises at a comfortable room temperature. Unlike reptiles, praying mantises need no special lights or vitamin d supplements (they have no bones). Also, no special dusting of their food with vitamins is necessary. How EASY!TEACH THEM TRICKS
Through observation and interaction, we believe praying mantises are rather unique. You can sense almost an alien intelligence as they turn their heads to look at you looking at them. You can hold your new friends and teach them to walk on your fingers. You may even get them to take food from your hand! Be sure to give them a special name and HAVE FUN!
GET YOURS TODAY
YOU CAN ORDER EVERYTHING HERE AT OUR ONLINE SHOP
Here at the Praying Mantis Shop, you'll find everything needed in order to welcome your new praying mantis friends, including:
Praying Mantis Egg Cases
Praying Mantis Enclosures
Praying Mantis Juveniles
Praying Mantis Food
Praying Mantis Kits
Praying Mantis Accessories
Praying Mantis Educational Items
Praying Mantis Décor and Gifts
Praying Mantis Fun for Kids
Praying Mantis T-Shirts
Should you have any questions or needs, we are always here to help- Please Contact Us Here.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS - You'll find more information on the FAQ page of our website.
National Geographic - One of our favorite places to find information on just about anything in nature that's under the sun.
Wikipedia - All about the mantis on our favorite website to learn about anything.
WikiHow - How to Take Care of a Praying Mantis - A very easy to read, step-by-step guide about how to care for this amazing creature.
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