- This page contains pictures and information about praying mantids,
or praying mantis, that we found in the Brisbane area, Queensland, Australia.
- Praying Mantid - The Insects Predator
- Praying Mantids are from medium to large in size. They have elongated body
and free movable triangular head. Their antennae are slender, segmented and longer in male than
in female. The pro-thorax is usually narrow and elongate. Their fore-legs
are spiny and strong. They have hardened forewings for
protection and membranous hind wings for flying, although some species are wingless.
Praying Mantids hold their wings flat over the abdomen. The wings
of male are usually functional while wings of female often reduced or even
- Praying Mantids have strong
mouthparts for chewing, together with their large eyes well apart on each side,
form their mobile triangular head. Some times the Mantis various stances look like
meditation techniques often practiced by humans.
- They are predators
to other insects. They have strong forelegs with spines in between. Most mantids
sit and wait among the vegetation ready to grasp unsuspecting prey by their powerful forelegs.
They wait motionless with their forelegs together as praying. This gave them the name
Praying Mantids. Some species have bright colour fore-arms or have bright
spot on the inner side of fore-arms. They sometimes put up the boxing
gesture showing the bright colour for territorial display purpose.
- Pray Mantids blend in the habitat, avoid being seen.
Usually Praying Mantids are green or brown in colour and are well camouflaged.
Camouflage is important in Praying Mantids. As predators, this avoid being
noticed by prey. As preys for many other predators, such as birds,
small mammals, they must not be seen to avoid being eaten. Praying Mantids
have very long legs. They attacked with lightening fast striking actions.
However, they do not run nor fly quickly. They heavily rely on camouflage to
- Mantids are never found in large number and they are well camouflaged.
They are not easily encountered. Most of them hunt both in day and night but
usually more active in the dark time.
- Praying Mantids development cycle is in-complete
- There is a popular misconception that Praying Mantids have an unusual mating behavior similar to
Widow Spiders, that the female will cut the head of the male during the early
stage of mating and when finished mating, the female often eats the entire male.
This is only happen in a few species and only at certain times. However,
cannibalism is common in praying mantids.
There are three Praying Mantid families in Australia. We
found two families in Brisbane and listed as follows. The third family Hymenopodidae
is a small family only found in North Queensland.
- Family Amorphoscelidae
- The Mantids in this family are small to medium in size. Most have good cryptic
colour and body shape. Some have the colours of bark and some mimic ants. They
hunt on ground or on tree trunks. Usually females
are wingless or with reduced wings while males are fully winged. Females and males may look
- This family contains 80% of the Praying Mantids species found in Australia.
Usually they are large in size. On their front arm, they have two rows of
spines, which is different from a single row of other families.
Ootheca - Mantids eggs case
Female mantid lays eggs in a
case called ootheca, which are often species distinctive. The number of 1st
instars hatch from the ootheca can be from 10 to 400 depends on species. Most
species lay the ootheca on plants, either on trunk, stems or on leaves.
Brown Mantid Ootheca
Brown Mantid Ootheca
- The Praying Mantids are also suffer from parasitise by Parasitic
Wasps. Those small holes on Ootheca in pictures were made by those wasps
when they emerged.
The ootheca are often parasitised by numbers of wasp species in genus Podagrion.
Questions for Discussion
Why Praying Mantids move in step towards its prey?
- When a Praying Mantids moving towards its prey, they move in step, i.e.., they move forwards a little bit
and then stop, a seconds later, it move another step and then stop, until they reach their prey.
This kind of motion may be more famous in the chameleon and some of the lizards. They move in steps and stop.
We can also see this kinds of movement in some spiders. This may look funny to our human eyes, but I
think there is the advantage for so many animal are doing this. Since all of them are predator to insects, I spectacular
that this kind of motions could be invisible to insects eyes. This kind of
motions may be not sensitive to the insect eyes. So the insects predators evolutes
this kind of motions to approach the prey.
When the praying mantid is very close to it prey, why it starts to swing it
head side way? Why the eyes of praying mantid are separated more than other
- We can also notice that when the praying mantid is very close to the prey,
it start to swing it head left and right. I gauss the praying mantid doing
this is to measure the distance from the prey accurately. By swinging
its head, the mantid create the viewing angle with the prey, as the above
picture. With the larger viewing angle, the more accurate distance can be
- The larger view angle can also explain why the praying mantids have their
eyes more separated than the other insects so that they can locate precisely their prey at close
Here we would like to thank Graham
Milledge of Australian Museum for he correcting some
mistakes in this web site.
- 1. Insects
of Australia, CSIRO, Division of Entomology, Melbourne University
Press, 2nd Edition 1991, pp 351-355.
- 2. Insects of Australia and New Zealand - R. J. Tillyard, Angus &
Robertson, Ltd, Sydney, 1926, p93.
- 3. Grasshopper
Country - the Abundant Orthopteroid Insects of Australia, D Rentz,
UNSW Press, 1996 p233.
- 4. Northern
Territory Insects, A Comprehensive Guide CD - Graham Brown, 2009.
- 5. Order MANTODEA - Australian Faunal Directory, Australian Biological Resources Study.
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