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Why You Shouldn’t Kill a Mantis

September 26, 2011

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I’ve heard it said that praying mantids (plural/refers to entire group) are a sign of good fortune. Since I’ve spotted four or five the past couple of months, I expect an incredible future in and around my garden, and in my life. How about you? Have you spotted a mantis (singular) lately?

This California mantis clung to my screen door for three weeks. Its milky-white color indicates that it just completed one of the ten molting stages mantids undergo before achieving adult size.

Here is a California mantis creeping along the garage floor. I left the mantis to find the nearby plants where it will prey on bad and good bugs:  grasshoppers, ants, moths, crickets, gnats, mealworms, grubs, termites, maggots, katydids, aphids, most flies, mosquitos, butterflies, ladybugs, spiders, worms.

Mantids Facts:

  • TypeBug
  • DietCarnivore. Mantids sometimes eat the male while matting or immediately after.
  • Average life span:  In the wild, 12 months. In captivity, up to 14 months.
  • Size: ½ – 6 inches (1.2 to 15 cm) long. In 1929 in Southern China, the world’s largest mantis measured at about 18 inches long.
  • Color:  Green or brown for camouflaging as they wait to ambush prey.

Other Interesting Facts:

  • More than 2,000 different species exist worldwide.
  • There are no ‘praying’ mantids in California.
  • Mantids were named for their “prayer-like” stance.
  • Mantids do not have a larval phase. They are born fully formed as nymphs.
  • Mantids can turn their heads 180 degrees to scan their surroundings with two large compound eyes with three simple eyes between.
  • They use their front legs to snare prey and can crush their prey in half.
  • Their legs have spikes to help snare and pin their prey.
  • Female praying mantids mate in late summer and lay hundreds of eggs in a small case in autumn.
  • Mantids live in all parts of the world where there’s mild winters and sufficient vegetation.
  • Male mantids are attracted to artificial lights and often fly at night making them a good meal for bats.
    • If threatened, mantids will make themselves appear larger by standing upright with their forelegs spread, wings fanned wide, and mouths open.
    • In some states, killing a mantis is against the law because they are a natural mosquito control.

Tip:  When doing your fall pruning, look for mantids eggs on branches, twigs, walls, fences or eaves. If possible, don’t prune the branch or place it in a protective area of the garden, off the ground where ants quickly consume them. Follow the same procedure if you remove mantids eggs from a wall. The nymphs will survive.

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5 comments

  1. I once was having an outdoor dinner party on our back patio. Darkness had settled in and we had the light on that was over the table where we were all sitting.

    Something kept flying by, and guess what, it was a LARGE mantis. I didn’t know they could get quite that big and that they could FLY.

    I know they are one of the good “bugs” and this one must have been close to it’s tenth molting I am guessing because of it’s size.

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  2. Good Monday Morning Dianne:

    Saturday while I was getting ready for my Granddaughters Swim, Outdoor Movie 14th Birthday Party my Lucky Mantis was just walking along the pool area…

    My husband, Drexel, loved pointing out Mantisis to me..He would show me all of their different coloring changes and would very carefully move them if they were in the wrong place…

    I had heard, though, that they bite?

    Thank you as alwys for such an informtive article…Kisses Kim

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  3. Cool! I haven’t had any praying mantis in my garden but would welcome the good luck bugs. Good information as always. Thanks Dianne.

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  4. Valerie, you are so lucky. I’ve never seen a mantis fly!

    Kim, there’s conflicting information on the web about mantids biting humans. I suppose any bug would bite a human if provoked.

    Anonymous, hope you see a mantis soon.

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  5. I really enjoy watching mantids in the garden. I have been bitten by a mantis. While working in the garden I thought a leaf was on my neck. As I brushed it away, I was promptly bit on the neck by the mantis that didn’t like my swipe. The bit didn’t hurt too much. But I definitely had a little red swollen area for a few days.

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