The Praying Mantis
The Mantids come in great variety of shape and color. Some are as thin as needles and less than 1 inch in length. Others grow up to 6 inches. Some can fly and others have no wings at all and have to walk from place to place. There are those that use the color of their wings as warning or threatening devices. When disturbed, these mantids will rear up, spread and rustle its wings while raising and lowering the tip of the abdomen and will hold the front legs high and spread apart as a boxing cat might do. There are some that attain the shape and color of the plants they rest on.
The food habits of the praying mantids place them among the most useful of insects. Ravenously carnivorous and equipped with a pair of spined and vice – like holding devices they consume numbers of insects. Mantids sit quietly while awaiting an unsuspecting victim. During such times, the manner in which they hold their front legs in a praying position has given them their common name. This quiet, docile, “praying” creature can flick a front leg forward quicker than the wink of an eye. And by folding the parts of the leg, can impale it’s prey on the spines there. Held securely this way, the mantid munches it’s victim from end to end.
As with the black widow, the female has a reputation for doing away with her mate. This is not necessarily the case, since agile, quick – footed males often escape such a fate.
The Chinese Mantid reached the U.S. in 1896 near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Since that time, the Chinese Mantid has spread widely throughput the country. The egg cases are often sold to gardeners who buy them hoping they will help control insect pests.