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Insects and other arthropods

Praying mantids

English
Mantis religiosa

Tabs group

Description

These are large insects, from 4.7 to 5.6 cm long, pale green to greyish-brown in colour. They are easily recognizable by their characteristic grasping forelegs, adapted to capturing prey, and their long “neck,” or prothorax.

The very mobile head has a pair of antennae and ends in a small mouth. With their large compound eyes and three simple eyes, praying mantids have exceptionally good vision for insects.

Two pairs of wings are attached to the thorax. Long, slender forewings protect the second pair of wings, normally folded, that open up like fans.

Females are much larger than males.

Life cycle

Praying mantids mate in late summer. The female produces a protective structure called an ootheca to hold the eggs. A single fertilization allows the female to produce up to a dozen oothecae, each containing dozens or even hundreds of eggs. She then attaches the oothecae to stems, branches or stones.

Adults die with the first frost. The eggs spend the winter protected in the oothecae and the larvae emerge in the spring. The young resemble small adults, but are wingless when they hatch. They moult about five to seven times before reaching the adult stage.

There is only one generation of praying mantids per year.

Geographic distribution

They are originally from Europe, and were introduced into New York State in 1899. Today they are found in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia, and in the southern and eastern United States.

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