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Praying Mantis (Mantis religiosa)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Praying Mantis



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Image Credit: Arch Baker
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Image Credit: RNF Photography
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Image Credit: Saginaw from Gallup, NM
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Image Credit: Arch Baker
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Image Credit: Noah Blades Photography
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Image Credit: Arch Baker
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Image Credit: Arch Baker
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Image Credit: RNF Photography
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Image Credit: Rodney and Peggy B., taken in Mexico
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Image Credit: Noah Blades Photography
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Image Credit: Arch Baker
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Image Credit: Albert M. from southern California
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The Praying Mantis is an incredible blessing for gardeners and farmers thanks to its mammoth appetite for plant-destroying pests.



Updated: 11/30/2020; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The Praying Mantis was discovered in the United States in 1899. It came from Europe likely via trade transports across the Atlantic. They are highly recognizable creatures, mainly because of their odd shape. Their bodies are relatively large and long with four legs at the abdomen area and two larger legs that appear more like arms. The large Praying Mantis (not 'Preying' although it does that very well) got its name from these two forelegs. When resting, these front legs are held in a way that makes them seem folded in prayer. Those powerful front legs are able to hold down an insect as the mantis eats it alive. The mantis' mouth parts are capable of cutting through the tough exoskeleton of insect prey. They come in a variety of colors, ranging from bright green to dark brown. Like all mantises, or mantids as they are also called, the female is larger than the male, especially in the abdomen. They are hefty insects and females are unlikely to fly because their wings are not able to hold their weight very well. Females can use their wings to scare off would-be predators by fanning them open while raising their 'arms'. The pose startles some predators away, saving the mantis. Smaller males can and do fly. After mating, females have been known to eat the male after reproduction, but that does not always happen. Both genders have binocular vision; one eye can look in a different direction from the other. They appear to have tiny pupils, but those black dots are actually photoreceptors reflecting no light colors. These pseudopupils give an observer the impression of being watched.

Females lay their flat, seed-shaped eggs on a twig in autumn. The freshly laid eggs are then coated with a hard foam that helps the eggs maintain moisture during dry winters, and deters birds and other insects from bothering them as well. In spring, the eggs hatch and pale nymphs, shaped like miniature adults, emerge and immediately begin feasting on smaller insects and sometimes each other.

Mantids are extremely beneficial in gardens. They eat a large volume of pest insects and can be a farmer or gardener's best friend because they help remove infestations of wasps and beetles. A Praying Mantis and even unhatched eggs can be purchased in the spring and released onto a plant in a garden in order to head off any pests that arrive before summer. Larger species of the Mantid family have even been known to eat frogs, lizards, and hummingbirds.

Catching a glimpse of a Praying Mantis is a special thing, but leave it where it is if it has not flown away. It does a great service for growers and is a benefit to the ecosystem. Consider just admiring them, and capture only their photograph.




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Mantodea
        Family: Mantidae
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          Genus: Mantis
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            Species: religiosa
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Mantis religiosa
Other Name(s): European Mantis, Mantid
Category: Mantid
Size (Adult; Length): 50mm to 75mm (1.96" to 2.95")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: green, yellow, white, red, brown
Descriptors: praying, long, stick

Praying-Mantis Video(s)




A Praying Mantis stares at the viewer.
Relative Size Comparison
Typical Range Between 50mm and 75mm
Lo: 50mm
Md: 62.5mm
Hi: 75mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
State of Alabama graphic
State of Arizona graphic
State of Arkansas graphic
State of California graphic
State of Colorado graphic
State of Delware graphic
State of Florida graphic
State of Georgia graphic
State of Idaho graphic
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State of Indiana graphic
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State of Kentucky graphic
State of Louisiana graphic
State of Maine graphic
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State of Michigan graphic
State of Minnesota graphic
State of Mississippi graphic
State of Missouri graphic
State of Montana graphic
State of Nebraska graphic
State of Nevada graphic
State of New England graphic
State of New Jersey graphic
State of New Mexico graphic
State of New York graphic
State of North Carolina graphic
State of North Dakota graphic
State of Ohio graphic
State of Oklahoma graphic
State of Oregon graphic
State of Pennsylvania graphic
State of South Carolina graphic
State of South Dakota graphic
State of Tennessee graphic
State of Texas graphic
State of Utah graphic
State of Virginia graphic
State of Washington graphic
State of West Virginia graphic
State of Wisconsin graphic
State of Wyoming graphic
Canadian territory of Alberta graphic
Canadian territory of British Columbia graphic
Canadian territory of Manitoba graphic
Canadian territory of New Brunswick graphic
Canadian territory of Newfoundland and Labrador graphic
Canadian territory of Ontario graphic
Canadian territory of Quebec graphic
Canadian territory of Saskatchewan graphic
Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Praying Mantis may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Praying Mantis. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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