Praying Mantid Facts

Many myths exist about the praying mantis, including that they are legally protected. Find out the real facts on praying mantids.

Praying Mantis, Photo credit: I.J. Raupp

Praying Mantis, Photo credit: I.J. Raupp

  1. There are four species in Pennsylvania and three of these are non-natives: Chinese mantis (Tenodera sinensis), Narrow-winged mantis (T. angustipennis), and European mantis (Mantis religiosa). The native Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis carolina) is more common in the south.
  2. All are sit-and-wait predators with spiny raptorial legs and strong sharp mandibles.
  3. All can turn their heads 180 degrees so they can see in all directions!
  4. It is a false urban legend that mantids are protected by law!
  5. When mating, the females can eat the males but this is more common in captivity than in nature.
  6. The females are larger than the males and don’t fly as well or as far.
  7. The egg cases, laid in the fall, can contain up to 400 eggs. The wingless nymphs will eat each other as well as other insects.  The egg cases sold for biocontrol are usually those of the large Chinese mantis.
  8. All are generalist feeders who tend to sit on nectar-rich flowers and, therefore, eat beneficial pollinators and, the two Asian species, which are larger, can even capture and eat hummingbirds!  Thus their role as biocontrol agents is questionable!

By: Barb Ryan, Lehigh/Northampton Master Gardener