What in the Mantis World?!

If I haven’t already told you, I’m a bug nerd. It’s one of those things I can’t explain. Hopefully you at least find them mildly interesting and maybe someday you will be converted into a full nerd.

This beauty was discovered at our office a couple weeks ago. Notice the enlarged abdomen–this is a pregnant female. Praying mantis females lay 100-400 eggs in the fall. Nymphs (baby insects) will emerge in the spring, grow all summer, mate in the fall, and then die after laying eggs. The cycle starts over. Now, praying mantis may be most well known for their mating…ritual, I suppose it could be called. Female mantises often eat their mate after (or sometimes during) mating. Why would she do such a thing? She is about to produce over 100 eggs. Maybe having a source of protein so easily caught is just too hard to pass up, even if it is her mate. Male mantises don’t pass on this information (through genes) to their off-spring though. So they continue to fall into the same trap year after year. No matter, males that survive mating die very soon after anyway.

Praying not Preying

Even as a bug nerd, I sometimes forget which one is it. These insects are veracious predators:

  • they have two compound eyes and three simple eyes (between the compound eyes)
  • their head can rotate 180 degrees
  • they are green which is an excellent camouflage when you live outdoors among green plants
  • their reflexes are so fast that they are difficult for humans to see
  • those long front legs are also lined with sharp spikes

So why praying mantis and not preying mantis? First, insects were named way back in the day, when religion was a state institution. The front legs fold up and even though insects don’t have hands, per say, the legs appear bent and held as one would do so in prayer. Hence Praying Mantis. It seems funny to think of this lethal (and cannibalistic) insect to be praying when it’s prey are the ones who should be doing so instead.

Keep an eye on egg sacks in the spring for emerging youngsters. These insects are also a common “pet.” A good starter pet since they’ll only live 6-12 months, but loads of fun to watch–just keep feeding them crickets and grasshoppers. Scout out an egg case this fall and make the transition to full bug nerd!

 

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