For this weekís edition of Friday Flyers we decided to feature the Preying Mantis. Mantids are widely distributed throughout temperate and tropical climates, and in dry or wet conditions. Mantids are carnivorous, and feed mostly on other insects. They are masters of camouflage and are exceptional hunters. Above all, they are exceptionally patient and can remain motionless in striking position for hours, waiting for an unsuspecting insect to get within range. Mantids can successfully hunt from any position and from any location, but they are most successful when they are concealed within foliage. They balance easily on their middle and hind legs, sometimes rocking back and forth to simulate the illusion of wind blowing. But itís their front legs that are their deadly weapons. Their front legs have evolved into saw-toothed clamps that are lightning fast and usually very accurate.
Mantids come in a variety of colors and shapes, all evolved to mimic their preferred camouflage plant. Some have even evolved weird resting positions to resemble flower petals, dead leaves, and even other harmless insects. While Mantids never developed poisonous venom, using their stealth and super-fast reflexes, they are able to capture insects that are close to their own size, and even dangerous insects like bees and wasps.
Most people donít realize that Mantids have wings and can fly fairly well. They donít normally fly long distances because generally they donít have to, but they can easily fly several hundred feet to reach new hunting grounds. Mantids donít grow wings until their adult stage. Juvenile Mantids donít have wings and generally move by jumping when necessary. Perhaps the most intriguing characteristic of Mantids is that they can swivel their heads to follow their prey. It almost gives them the impression of being ďhumanĒ. Mantids can be interesting pets as long as you can keep them well fed with a steady supply of fresh insects to eat. A Mantis will happily sit on your shoulder or hand as long as you donít make any sudden movements. Of course, like other insects Mantids have relatively short life spans even when food is abundant. Even so, an adult Mantis could be kept for a couple of months, well beyond their natural lifespan in the wild.
In northern Illinois we have only one species of Mantis, the Carolina Mantis, and we are at the northern end of its range. Further north, there is not a long enough summer for it to reach maturity before the winter arrives. The Carolina Mantis can be either green or brown depending somewhat on what the surrounding leaves look like as it is developing into adulthood. The juvenile stages are always green. The Carolina Mantis is the ďclassicĒ shape and size for a Mantis, and they grow to full maturity in about 4 months. We have included some pictures of some other Mantid species that we photographed in the jungles of Ecuador to show you some of the variations of these amazing insects. The pictured framed specimen is a Carolina Mantis from our Wonders Of Nature department, and itís priced at only $75.00 in an 8-inch frame. Mantids are a favorite among collectors and this one will make a wonderful addition to your collection!
A Leaf Mantis from Ecuador, ready to take flight!
From Ecuador, a spectacular Hooded Mantis! When he is in a tree or bush, he is perfectly camouflaged!
A Tree Mantis feeding on a moth. We photographed this one in Ecuador. He devoured the moth in about 2 minutes!
A perfectly posed Preying Mantis from our Wonders of Nature store - only $75!