Facts about mantids

Some mantid facts

Mantids’ Eating Habits

  • Extremely predacious
  • Eat only live prey, or at least prey that is moving, and hence, appears alive
  • Some say that it will eat “anything,” even reptiles and small birds, but others indicate it prefers “soft bodied” insects which it can easily devour. These dietary preferences very by species. Males are generally less aggressive predators than females.
  • Cannibalistic, both as a nymph and as a adult. Baby mantids will eat other babies, adults will eat their own or others’ babies, and adults will eat each other
  • Diurnal. But mantids also congregate and feed around artificial light sources.
  • Often wait motionless for unsuspecting prey to get within striking distance–a “sit-and wait” and wait or ambush strategy, but also can slowly stalk prey
  • Often begin to undulate and sway just before striking their prey. Some have speculated this is to mimic the movement of surrounding foliage. Others suggest that this behavior aids in the visualization process.
  • Attack by “pinching” and impaling prey between their spiked lower tibia and upper femur
  • The mantid’s strike takes an amazing 30 to 50 one-thousandth of a second. The strike is so fast that it cannot be processed by the human brain. It uses the view before and after the strike and “tricks” you into seeing what occurs in-between.
  • After securing the prey with its legs, rapidly chew at the prey’s neck to immobilize it
  • If well fed, will selectively choose to devour “select” parts of their prey and discard the rest
  • If any part of the prey is dropped during feeding, they will not retrieve it.
  • After eating, will often use their mouth to clean the food particles from the spines of the tibia, and then wipe their face in a cat-like manner.

How do Mantid’s Mate and Reproduce?

  • One of the most interesting, and to humans, disturbing features of mantid life is the female’s tendency to eat her mate
  • During late summer, a female mantis, already heavy with eggs, is believed to excrete a chemical attractant to tempt a willing male into mating
  • The current state of research seems to indicate that the female sometimes devours the male during the mating process (between 5-31% if the time)
  • The dead male may also serve as a source of protein for the female and her young.
  • Recent research indicates that fertilization can take place without the male’s death and that his demise is not necessary to the process
  • The male’s sperm cells are stored in a special chamber in the female’s abdomen called the spermatheca.
  • The female can begin lay her eggs as early as a day after mating.
  • As the eggs pass through her reproductive system, they are fertilized by the stored sperm.
  • After finding a suitably raised location–a branch, stem, or building overhang–special appendages at the base of her abdomen “froth” the gelatinous egg material into the shape characteristic of the particular species as its exits her ovipositor.
  • By instinct, the female twists her abdomen in a spiral motion to create many individual “cells” or chambers within the ootheca or egg case.
  • The egg laying process takes between 3 and 5 hours
  • The ootheca soon hardens into a paper mache like substance that is resistant to the birds and animals that would attempt to eat it.
  • The carefully crafted pockets of air between the individual egg cells acts insulation against cold winter temperatures
  • The number and size of egg cases deposited by a female also varies by species and she dies sometime after her final birthing
  • Orchid mantises are so called as they resemble flowers with their four walking legs shaped liked the petals of an exotic bloom, thus confusing both potential prey and predators.