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The Praying Mantis

“Praying Mantis” is the name commonly used in English speaking countries to refer to a large, much elongated, slow-moving insect with fore legs fitted for seizing and holding insect prey. The name, “Praying Mantis” more properly refers to the specific Mantid species Mantis Religiosa or the European Mantis, but typically is used more generally to refer to any of the mantid family. The name is derived from the prayer-like position in which the insect holds its long, jointed front legs while at rest or waiting for prey. It is also called the “preying” mantis because of its predatory nature.

CLASSES Many questions have risen regarding the praying mantis. Such questions include how many different species there are in the animal kingdom. Estimates range from 1500 to 2200 different mantid species WORLDWIDE. The most common figure given, though, is about 1800. The ways the Mantid’s are classified in the Animal Kingdom. There is agreement that the collection of mantid species make up the Mantidae family of insects. The Mantidae family, in turn, is part of the order/suborder Mantodea that includes a variety of mantid-like species.

But the existing literature does not reflect a clear consensus about what insect order Mantodea belong in. Some have placed Mantodea in the Dictyoptera Order-with the roaches. Others place Mantodea in the Orthoptera Order-with crickets and grasshoppers. Finally, some believe that Mantodea constitute their own independent order of insects. There seems to be an emerging consensus around this position. FIRST THINGS FIRST The Mantis Religiosa was first named such and classified by the inventor of the modern system of biological taxonomy Carolus Linnaeus.

The three common species of mantids in North America are the European mantis (Mantis religiosa), the Chinese mantis (Tenodera aridifolia sinensis), and the Carolina mantis Stagmomantis carolina) distinguishing features of these three species: Size The Chinese mantis is the largest of the three, reaching lengths of three to five inches. The European mantis, however, is a little smaller than the Chinese variety and it only reaches lengths of two to three inches. And finally the Carolina mantis is smallest of the three usually less than two inches in length. Color The Chinese mantis is mostly light brown with dull green trim around its wings.

The European mantis is more consistently bright green in color. The Carolina mantis is a dusky brown or gray color, perhaps to blend in with the pine forests nd sandhills of its native South. Egg cases The best way to distinguish the three species is by the shape of their egg cases or ootheca. The egg case of the Chinese mantis is roughly ball-shaped, but has a flattened area on one side. The European mantid’s egg case is rounded without this a this “flat portion” The Carolina mantis has an egg case that looks like a short elongated tube, often spread out along a portion of twig or stem.

Range The Chinese mantis can be found throughout the United States. The European mantis is most common east of the Mississippi. And the Carolina mantis makes ts home in the Southeastern part of the U. S. Other Physical Characteristics One of the most notable features of the Carolina mantis is that their wings only extend about 3/4 of the way down the abdomen. Markings The European mantis is also distinguished as the only of three species that bears a black-ringed spot beneath its fore coxae. Species Origins The Carolina mantis is one of 20 mantid species native to North America.

The European and Chinese mantids were introduced to America around the turn of the century. The European mantis is said to have first been brought to Rochester New York in 1899 on a shipment of nursery plants. The Chinese mantis arrived in 1895, from China (duh), on nursery stock sent to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. KEY FEATURES Key features of mantid physiology include a triangular head with large compound eyes, two long, thin antennae, and a collection of sharp mouth parts designed for devouring live prey.

Because of its compound eye, the mantid’s eyesight is very good. However, the sharpest vision is located in the compound eye’s center so the mantis must rotate its head and look directly at an object for optimum viewing. Fortunately, the mantis can also rotate its head 180 degrees to see rey or approaching threats, the mantis can scan a total of 300 degrees. The mantid’s eyes are very sensitive to light, changing from light green or tan in bright light, to dark brown in the dark. An elongated prothorax or neck that helps gives the mantis its distinctive appearance.

The prothorax is also quite flexible, turning and bending easily which aids in its locating and seizing of prey. Two long, “raptorial” front legs that are adapted to seize and hold prey. These legs have three parts: 1. The lower part of the legs or tibia have sharp spines to firmly grasp prey 2. These spines “fold-up” into matching grooves in the upper femur, creating a “jackknife” effect that allows the insect to assume its distinctive “praying” position. 3. Finally, the upper coxa functions like a shoulder to connect the femur and tibia to the mantid’s body. . Four other long, thin legs designed for climbing and movement. These legs regenerate if broken or lost, but only during the molting process, but unfortunately limbs that regenerate are often smaller than the others. Since a full grown adult no longer molts, he or she cannot replace lost limbs. The front “raptorial” legs do not regenerate and if a mantis loses one of them it ill not survive 5. Two pairs of wings that fold neatly against its abdomen when not in use. A front set of leathery tegmina wings that overlay and protect the ‘inner wings.

Back wings used for flight and to “startle” enemies 6. A large, segmented abdomen which contains the mantid’s digestive system and reproductive organs. The male has 8 abdominal segments. The female is born with 8 segements, but with each successive molting, the 6th segment gradually overlaps the 7th and 8th until 6 segments remain at the adult stage 7. 60% of mantid species–especially those that have wings–also have an ultrasonic ear” on the underside of their metathorax The mantid is an auditory cyclops, unique in the animal kingdom. That is, it has only a single ear.

The ear is made of a deep, 1 mm long slit with cuticle-like knobs at either end and two ear drums buried inside. The ear is specially tuned to very high “ultrasonic” frequencies of sound–25 to 60 kilohertz. Apparently, the ear is designed to primarily respond to the ultrasonic echo-location signal emitted by hunting bats. The mantis primarily uses its ultrasonic ear while in flight. When a relatively slow flying mantis sense a bat’s ultrasonic echo t close range, it curls its abdomen upwards and thrusts it legs outward creating drag and resulting in a sudden aerial “stall”.

The mantid in-flight maneuver creates an inherently unpredictable flight patternsometimes looping up and around, banking left or right, or a sudden spiral towards the ground. This tactic is apparently very effective for avoiding a hungry bat’s attack BASIC FEATURES Abdominal Structurethe female mantis has 6 segments. the male 8 segments. Size the female mantis is usually larger than the male Behaviorthe male mantis is more prone to take flight in search of a mate while the female often remains more stationary DIET & COMBAT STYLE Basically the praying mantis is extremely predacious ESPECIALLY the female.

The mantid eats only live prey, or at least prey that is moving, and hence, appears alive. Some might go as far as saying that the praying mantis 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 behavior is present in the mantid, both as a nymph and as a adult. Baby mantids will eat other babies, adults will eat their own or others’ babies, nd adults will eat each other. Mantids are diurnal, that is, mainly eats during the day.

But mantids also congregate and feed around artificial light sources. Mantids usually wait motionless for unsuspecting prey to get within striking distance–a “sit-and wait” and wait or ambush strategy, but can also slowly stalk prey. The mantid often begins to undulate and sway just before striking its prey. Some have speculated this is to mimic the movement of surrounding foliage. Others suggest that this behavior aids in the visualization process. They attacks by “pinching” and impaling prey between its spiked lower ibia 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 chews at the prey’s neck to immobilize it. If well fed, mantids will selectively choose to devour “select” parts of its prey and discard the rest. If any part of the prey is dropped during feeding, the mantid will not retrieve it. After eating, will often use its mouth to clean the food particles from the pines of its tibia, and then wipe its face in a cat-like manner.

REPRODUCTION 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 ake 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 er 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 GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT The life-cycle of North American mantid species runs from spring to fall.

When springtime temperatures become sufficiently warm, the mantid nymphs emerge from the ootheca. They drop toward the earth on thin strands of stringy material produced by a special gland in their body–often descending in a writhing mass-before breaking free to live solitary lives. Mantid nymphs are hemimetabolous (did I spell that right)that is, they undergo only a partial metamorphosis from nymph to adult stage. Mantid nymphs appear like small adults (about 3/8′ long) except that their wings are not fully formed.

The nymphs go through a series of 6-7 molts-the casting off of the outer layer of skin-before eaching their adult form. When molting, the nymphs attach their “old,” loose skin to a stick or rough surface with a secreted glue-like substance, chews an opening in it, creates a split or tear on top of the thorax and down the back, and then wriggles free. The mantid’s leg casings do not split open, and many nymphs die when unable to fully kick free of their old skin. Young mantids feed on whatever small insects they can find including each other.

The mantids continue to grow until the time for mating comes in late summer, and then the whole process begins again. SELF-DEFENSE The mantid primary enemies are birds, mammals (especially bats), spiders, snakes, and, of course, man. The mantid has four primary defense mechanisms against those who would prey on it. Camouflage-the mantid’s brown and green color allow it to blend in with surrounding foliage. Stealth-the mantid’s ability to stay perfectly still for long periods of time causes it be overlooked by many would-be predators.

Startle-display when confronted by an enemy the mantid can rear up in its hand legs and spread and rattle its wing in an act of intimidation. Ultrasonic ear used when encountering bats in flight. Unfortunately, the mantid has no defense against pesticides which it ingests through its prey. Incidentally, there is a form of martial art called Praying Mantis Kung-Fu Please refer to the section entitles Praying Mantis Kung-Fu at the end of the document for more information CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE The word “mantis” comes from ancient Greece and means “diviner” or “prophet”.

Many cultures have credited the mantid with a variety of magical qualities: France-French peasants state that If a child is lost, the mantids praying-stance points the way home. Turkey & Arabia-The mantid always prays toward Mecca. Southern U. S. -The brown saliva of the mantis will make a man go blind or kill a horse. 4. China-Roasted mantid egg cases will cure bed wetting. Africa-If a mantis lands on a person it brings them good luck and A mantis can bring the dead back to life. European Middle-Ages-The mantis was a great worshipper of God due to its time spent in prayer.

Perhaps the best measure of the hold mantids have on our cultural imagination is the fact they are almost surely prominently pictured on any book about insects intended for a popular audience interesting and common names that the Praying Mantis has been commonly acquainted with 1. Sooth-sayers-(England)-from the Greek roots of the word “mantis” meaning “prophet. ” 2. Devil’s Rearhorses, Devil horses (Southern U. S. )-from the mantid’s tendency to rear up on its hind legs when threatened. 3. Mulekillers (Southern U. S. )from the (false) belief that the brown saliva emitted by a mantis will kill a mule.

Camel-crickets (Unknown) PRAYING MANTIS KUNGFU If one talks about Praying Mantis Boxing then one must know that its founder and patriarch was someone, named Wang Lang. However it is unknown when exactly he lived and what kind of family he came from but certainly his family was not wealthy. Wang Lang was famous for his passion for martial arts and was an outstanding person. He traveled a lot around the Empire Under Heaven (China), while studying different styles of boxing and had many friends skillful in martial arts. Once, during the mid-autumn festival Wang Lang went hiking to Lao Shan mountains.

He looked at the magnificent cliffs above and boundless rivers below and felt astonished by this mighty vastness. When out of curiosity he decided to climb even higher, following the curvy and steep path going up the mountains, Wang Lang suddenly heard the quiet sound of a bell ringing somewhere nearby. Walking along the path Wang Lang soon reached an ancient temple, abode of hermits and decided to enter in order to get some food and water. The first thing he saw were taoist monks practicing the art of boxing in the main plaza of the temple. Wang Lang counted about sixty positions and styles that he had never seen before.

Then Wang Lang asked the taoist monks a question but was not regarded with an answer, he asked again but the answer was just a silence randomly interrupted by the sounds of their movements. Finally, Wang Lang decided to attract the attention of one of the practitioners by pulling his arm. The monk became angry seeing a great boldness of this uninvited guest and lack of etiquette and jumped on Wang Lang with clinched fists, ready to punish him. However the monk was immediately knocked down by Wang Lang’s quick response. A dozen of monks ran to help their religious brother but all failed.

Monks started yelling and called the abbot. When the abbot came Wang Lang explained to him the situation that he just wanted to ask for food and water and did not have any bad intents. Abbot replied: “All these are my disciples and monks and I am strongly ashamed by their failure, would you please indulge me with a just fight? Wang Lang agreed but lost the fight. Then Wang Lang realized the depth of the abbot’s martial skills and immediately left the temple. Wang Lang went deep in the woods and decided to rest, he laid down and started thinking about his unsuccessful fight and the reasons why he lost it.

Suddenly he saw two white praying mantises on the tree branch. One of them was holding a fly in his front legs and the other tried to take away the prey. During the fight one mantis was attacking and another would jumping from side to side, ducking and counter- attacking with the lightning speed. Wang Lang concentrated all his mind on this ight and suddenly realized the hidden principals of outstanding flexibility and agility of praying mantis’ attacks, counter-attacks and moves. He then immediately returned to the taoist temple and started a fight with the abbot.

As soon as the venerable abbot saw that hand techniques of Wang Lang were noticeably different from the last time they had fought and also had a feeling that this fight would be won by Wang Lang, the abbot asked about the source of such a technique, but Wang Lang continued fighting in complete silence. After a while the abbot asked again but did not get an answer. Only when Wang Lang won he fight, did he tell the abbot the reason of his success. The abbot immediately sent his disciples to the woods to catch about ten pairs of praying mantises.

When the insects were delivered the abbot put them on the table and set them to fight each other. In this manner Wang Lang and the abbot spent quite a long time learning movements and tactical positions of the praying mantises, engaged in deadly fights. Then the two masters developed a new, secret technique of boxing which was significantly different from other ones. Later Wang Lang said to the abbot: “Even though you and I developed a new style of boxing, we hould not forget the cause and the source of our knowledge.

If the praying mantis while striving for food and existence did not reveal us its secrets, we would never develop this new style. ” The abbot replied: “You are right! In order to perpetuate the memory of the source, we shall call this style “The Gates of Praying Mantis” (Tang Lang Men). Wang Lang and the abbot developed twelve characters – guiding principles of the praying mantis fighting technique: zhan (contacting), nian (sticking), bang (linking), tie (pressing), lai (intruding), jiao (provoking), shun (moving along), song (sending), ti (lifting), na grabbing), feng (blocking), bi (locking).

Also they developed formal sets of praying mantis technique, such as: Beng bu (crushing step), Lan jie (obstruction), Ba zhou (eight elbows), Mei hua lu (plum blossom technique) and Bai yuan tou tao (white ape steals the peach). However, this new style for a long time was a privilege of the taoist monks of the Lao Shan taoist religious community and it was kept as a part of the secret taoist doctrine and closed to lay people. Wang Lang, for the rest of his days, lived in the taoist temple practicing self cultivation, developing Praying Mantis boxing and following the way of the Tao… “

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