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Praying Mantis Essay

Mantodea – most commonly known as the Praying Mantis, order mantodea is a group of about 1800 carnivorous insects which prodominatley live in tropical regions of the earth. Though certain species can be found in locations with moderate climate. With an extremely striking appearence, mantids almost have human like qualities with the ability to hold an erect stance, and arms that face forward. A very efficient killer, mantids were created for hunting and killing prey. Order Mantodea is in the subclass Pterygota. As with all classifications there can be debates on where certain orders or species belong.

Historically there has been some confusion on whether Mantodea deserves there own order. Some experts have placed Mantodea in the dictyoptera order along with cock roaches (Ramel 1996, Jaques 1981, Phoenix Zoo). Others say mantids belong in Orthoptera, which consists of grasshoppers. Experts say this is due to their large pro notum (Stokes 1983, Borror and White 1970). The emerging consensus around the position of Mantodea believes Mantodea constitute their own independent order of insects. Mantids can be characterized by their triangular head, and filiform antennae.

This head has the ability to turn 180 degrees. With their prominate pair of compound eyes located on Peters 2 the sides of the head, the mantis can almost see 360 degrees around. However the sharpest vision is located in the compound eyes center, for the mantis to optimaly see objects it must turn its head so that the eye is facing the object. These eyes are extremely sensitive to light, changing from light green or tan in bright light, to dark brown in the dark. The prothorax of the mantis is another aid in giving them their distintive appearence.

This prothorax has the ability to bend and wist which aids in the mantids ability to see close to 360 degrees around. The two long “raptorial” front legs are adapted to seize and hold prey. The coxa connects the tibia which has sharp spines to firmly hold prey. The femur has matching groves where the spine on the tibia fold into. This creates a “jack knife” effect that allows the insect to assume its distinctive praying position. The other four legs of the mantis are designed for locomotion. These legs can regenerate if broken, but only in the molting process. These limbs that regenerate are always smaller than they were originally.

A full grown adult that no longer molts no longer possess the ability to regenerate limbs. The front”raptorial” limbs do not regenerate if broken. Because of their large bulky bodies mantids are fairly weak flyers. They have four pairs of wings. The first pair are leathery tegmina wings that lay over the inner pair. The Peters 3 mambrenous inner pair are folded under the first pair and are used for flight and to startle enemies. The large segmented abdomen houses the digestive system and reproductive organs. The male mantis has 8 segments, and the females are born with 8 segments as well.

But with each succesive molt in the female the last two segments begin to overlap resulting with 6 segments left. Sixty percent of mantid species possess an ultrasonic ear on the under side of the metathorax, especially those that have wings. The mantid is an “auditory cyclops”, which means it only has one ear. The ear is 1mm long with cuticle like knobs at either end and two ear drums buried inside. The ear is specially tuned to very high ultrasonic freqeuncies of sound waves from 25 to 65 kilohertz. Apparently, the ears primary purpose is designed to respond to the ultrasonic echo-location ignal used by hunting bats.

The mantis primarily uses its ultrasonic ears while in flight. When a mantis senses a bats ultrasonic echo at close range, it curls its abdomen upwards and thrusts its legs outward creating a drag and resulting in a sudden aerial stall. This flight manuever of the mantis creates an unpredictable flight pattern for the bat, and is very effective at avoiding hungry bats. There are three ways to distinguish between female and male mantodea. The male has 8 segments, while the female has Peters 4 The second is size, the female is always bigger than the male.

The third is behavior, the male mantis is more prone to take flight in search of a mate, while the female often remains stationary. Mantids are extremely predacious feeders, only eating live prey, or prey that is moving, and hence appears alive. Varying on the species, you can see what diet preferences are. Some species only eat “soft bodied bugs”, insects that can be easily devoured. While some species will eat anything from small birds to reptiles. Mantids are diurnal, which means they eat primarily during the day. An attacking mantid “undulates”, and sways just before a strike.

Some experts believe this swaying action mimics the movement of the surrounding folliage due to gusts of wind. Others believe this swaying aids in the mantid visually focusing on the prey. Mantids hunt by the “sit and wait” method or by the slow stalk method. The “sit and wait” can sometimes take hours, waiting for an unsuspecting victim to come within an arms length. The slow stalk method is pretty self explanitory. Mantids attack by”pinching”, impaling prey between its spiked lower tibia and upper femur. The mantids strike takes an amazing 30 to 50 one-thousanth of a second.

The trike is so fast it cant be proccessed by the human brain. Once the prey is secured with its legs the mantid chews at the preys neck. If well fed, the mantid will selectively choose to eat certain Peters 5 parts of its prey and discard the rest. If any part of the prey is dropped while feeding the mantis will not retrieve it. After feeding, they will often use their mouth to clean the food particles from the spines of its tibia, and then wipe their face clean similar to cats. The cannibalistic instincts of mantids are probably what give order mantodea a reputation for being such cold hearted killers.

All stages f growth partake in cannibalistic activities, from nymph to adult, whether adult eats nymph or nymph eats nymph. After mating the female will often eat her mate. Between 5-31% of males get devoured during the mating process. A female mantis already heavy with eggs will excrete a chemical attractant to tempt a willing male into mating. The horny and always willing male will almost always get sucked in. The males sperm cells are stored in the spermatheca of the female. The female can begin to lay her eggs as early as the day after fertilization.

As the eggs pass through her reproductive system, they are ertilized by the stored sperm. After finding a raised location, like a branch or stem, special appendages at the base of the abdomen (ventral valve maybe) create a gelatinous egg material into the shape characteristic of the particular species as it exits her ovipositor. The egg laying process takes 3 to 5 hours long. By instinct the female twists her abdomen in a spiral motion to create chambers within the ootheca. The egg case then hardens Peters 6 into a paper mache like substance that is resistant to pests who would try and eat it.

There are small air pockets between each cell of the ootheca which aids in insulation gainst cold winters. There can be anywhere from 30 to 300 eggs laid in a sitting. Often times the female dies after her final birthing. The life-cycle of the North American mantid species runs from spring to fall. When spring time temperatures become favorable the mantid nymphs emerge from the ootheca. They drop towards the ground on a thin strand of stringy material produced by a special gland in their body. Mantid nymphs are hemimetabolous. Mantid nymphs appear like small adults, but without fully-formed wings.

Nymphs go through 6 to 7 molts before they reach adulthood. Emerging nymphs feed on whatever small insects they can get their claws on, including their brothers and sisters. The primary enemies to mantids are spiders, birds, snakes, mammals(especially bats), and man. The mantis has four primary methods for defense. The mantids green and brown exo-skeleton color help aid in camouflage. The mantids ability to stand perfectly still for extremely long periods of time cause it to be over looked by predators. When confronted by an enemy the mantis asumes the “startle display”, rearing its fore legs up and spread apart, and rattling its ings.

The ultrasonic ear is also a form of defense for the mantis. Insect Pest Management or IPM is a subject of research Peters 7 that is really starting to take notice throughout the world. Its becoming apparent that the over use of chemical pesticides is ruining our Earths ecology. Finding alternative methods of pest control besides the use of pesticides is imperative if we expect to keep this planet in good condition. Numerous cases of IPM have been initiated and have proved to work. The praying mantis plays an important role in natures insect pest control plan.

The praying mantis is one of the few predators with that are fast enough to catch mosquitos and flies while their in flight. Moth populations are also controlled by mantids. There are three common species of mantids found in North America. The European mantis (Mantis religiosa), the Chinese mantis (Tenodera aridifolia sinesis), and the Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis carolina). The European mantis is usually 2-3 inches in length, and has a consistently bright green color. These are distinguished as the only of the three species that bear a black-ringed spot beneath the fore coxae.

The European antids are most often found east of The Mississippi River. It is said that the European mantids were first introduced into North America in Rochester New York in 1899 on a shipment of nursery plants. The Chinese mantis is the largest of the three native to North America reaching lengths up to five inches. This species is mostly light brown with a dull green trim around its wings. The Chinese mantis can be found throughout the United States. Peters 8 The Chinese mantis arrived in 1895 on nursery stock sent to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Carolina mantis is the smallest of the three never reaching a length greater han 2 inches. This mantis has a dusky brown or gray color to blend in with the pine forests and and sandhills of Southeastern part of the U. S. An interesting feature of the Carolina mantis is that the wings which only extend 3/4 of the way down the abdomen. There are many myths and legneds asscociated with mantids. For thousands of years they have captured our imagination, and curiosity. The word mantis comes from ancient greece and means “diviner” or “prohpet”. Many cultures have credited the mantid with a variety of magical qualities.

In the southern portion of the U. S. t is believed that if the brown saliva of a mantis ever comes in contact with you, youll go blind. This mystical saliva also has the potential to kill a horse. In France it is believed that if a lost child is ever in the woods and cant find his way home the praying stance of the mantid will direct them toward safety. The Turks and Arabs believe the mantid always prays toward Mecca. During the European Middle-ages it was thought that the mantis was a great worshiper of god due to the great amounts of time spent in prayer.

In China it is believed that the roasted egg cases of mantids ill cure bed wetting in people. In Africa, if a mantid Peters 9 ever lands on someone it will bring that person good luck. It is also believed that the mantis possess the power to bring the dead back to life. Type in praying mantis on most any search engines and youll be able to find numerous amounts of info. But 80% of most of these praying mantis sites are all related to the praying mantis style of kung-fu. To find any decsent info on the praying mantis, you must type in the latin name. Many legends are told about the origins of praying mantis kung-fu.

There is no disputing the fact that Wang Lang invented Plum Blossom Praying Mantis Boxing. The one legend that seems to be found at most web-sites describing the history of Praying Mantis Kungfu is the one about Wang Langs hiking trip through the Lao Shan mountains of China. After a recent devasting loss in a kungfu fight Wang needed some time to himself. While resting on a log he noticed two mantids fighting. Their quickness, patience, and flexibility intrigued Wang. Using those same ideas, and techniques used by the mantids he developed praying mantis kungfu.

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