|The Praying Mantis|
One spring I decided to buy some praying mantises to help control the aphid and leaf hopper population in our yard. I didn't know what to expect never having done this before.
When I opened the container there were two egg cases the size of a walnut. I had the option of placing them in the garden to hatch or leaving them in the container until the eventful day. Being the curious person that I am I chose to watch! So I placed the container on a shelf and kept checking it everyday.
Before I knew it, there where hundreds of little mantises not much bigger than a mosquito scurrying around. I called to my husband to come and see how cute they were. After we oogled a bit I took them outside and shook them into all the bushes and perennials around the house.
It bothered me some having to put them into this new, cold, harsh environment. My motherly instinct kicked in and I instantly felt a special closeness to the little guys. From that point on they would be "my babies". When it stormed I worried that they would drowned, or freeze when it got cold. Which many of them did, I'm sure.
Each time I would spot one in the garden I could see they were growing bigger and stronger until finally early that November I saw an adult male on our raspberry bush basking in the sun. I had to catch him and play with him awhile, and of course make him pose for a picture. I guess he got tired of posing and tried to fly away. So I put him back on his raspberry bush so he could get on with what praying mantises do best--eat!
Before I knew it we were making plans to bring him into the house and put him in a cage for the winter. Now he could enjoy his remaining days feasting on fresh crickets and any other gourmet meals we could provide.
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Answers to Common Questions
There are more than 1800
species of mantids in the world. Most live in warm, tropical climates.
Three kinds of praying mantises are common to North America: the European
mantid, the Chinese mantid, and the Carolina mantid. The Carolina mantid
is native to North America. The others are believed to have been brought
to North America on a shipment of imported goods around 1900.
Mantises can reach over 6
Most scientist agree that mantises are related to grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches, and other members of the order of Orthoptera. Like these insects, mantises have mouth parts designed to chew food. They also have distinctive wings. The front pair usually thick and narrow, and the back pair thin and folded like a fan.
Some scientists believe,
however, that mantises are different enough from grass hoppers, crickets,
and cockroaches to be given their own order, Mantodea.
Because the mantis goes through definite physical changes as it develops, it is said to go through a metamorphosis. The word metamorphosis means "change." The praying mantis goes through three stages: egg, nymph, and adult. Scientists call this an incomplete metamorphosis because the nymph looks quite a lot like the adult insect.
A mantis nymph grows in a special way. In order to increase in size, it must replace the outer covering of its body. An insects body is enclosed in a tough, flexible covering called an exoskeleton. This covering acts as an exterior skeleton, serving the same purpose as the bony, internal skeletons of other kinds of animals.
Unlike bones, however an insects exoskeleton does not grow along with its body. As the insect gets larger, its exoskeleton eventually becomes too tight. When this happens, the old exoskeleton is shed or molted, and replaced by a new, roomier one that forms underneath.
Mantis nymphs may molt five to ten times in all, depending on the species. They grow larger with each molt. The last time it slips out of its tight skin, it will have fully formed wings. At first, they are wrinkled and pale. Soon they are stretched out and begin to dry.
Egg cases called Ootheacae
are made by female mantises during the previous autumn. She attaches them
to twigs and branches. When spring days become warm the eggs begin to develop
into young mantises. By May or June, the baby mantises have completed their
development and are ready to emerge into the outside world. There may be
as many as 400 young in a single egg case.
A nymph is what an immature
mantis is called. A nymph is very similar to its parents except it's much
smaller and has no wings.
Animals that prey on mantis nymphs are spiders, lizards, ants, birds and frogs. Until the nymph's body hardens and changes to a darker color, he is very vulnerable to attack by predators. Many of the hundreds of nymphs that emerge from an egg case do not survive the first few hours of their lives.
Animals that prey on adult
mantids are birds, bats and spiders, if they happen to fly into one of
their webs by mistake.
Nymphs, like adult mantises are strictly meat eaters. The nymphs prey upon, insects smaller than themselves, leaf hoppers, aphids, and very small flies.
An adult mantis will attack butterflies, moths, bees, horseflies, beetles, or other mantises, and even animals much larger than itself--frogs, lizard, katydids, and small birds.
Praying mantises have two
pairs of wings. They can fly but usually take flight only to move from
one perch to another or to escape from predators. They are not long distance
fliers. Adult female mantises are often incapable of flight because their
bodies are heavy with the weight of undeveloped eggs.
The abdomen of the mantis
has several segments. The male mantis, which is usually smaller than the
female, has eight segments in its abdomen. The female has only six. The
female also has a tube called an ovipositor for laying eggs.
Autumn is the time of mating for mantises in temperate climates. The male mantis which is usually smaller than the female must be cautious in approaching potential partners, or they will end up as meals rather than mates. Any mantis will eat another mantis if it gets a chance, and mating females are no exception to this rule.
A male usually approaches a female from behind and climbs onto her back, holding on with his front legs. Then be bends the tip of his abdomen under to join the tip of the female's abdomen. Sperm cells pass from the male's body to the female's, where they are stored in a special chamber in her abdomen.
Even after a male mantis has mated with a female, he is not safe from her tremendous appetite. Females often seize their partners and devour them as soon as they have finished mating. In fact, they sometimes attack the males during the mating act. Males do not resist these attacks and even try to finish their tasks before they are eaten by their ferocious mates.
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