Common name(s): mantids, praying mantis
Description: Mantids are moderate to large in size. The head is small in comparison to other insects, and is mobile and triangular. Compound eyes are large and separated. Filiform antennae are slender. The thorax is narrow: the prothorax is elongate while the meso- and metathorax are shorter. Fore wings for the tegmina, while hind wings are broad. The characteristic fore legs are predatory (raptorial) and used to catch and hold food and mates. Hind and middle legs are elongate and used for walking. The 10th visible segment on the abdomen has segmented cerci. In females, the ovipositor is internal. In males, genitals are external and asymmetrical.
Immature stages (nymphs) resemble small adults. Development is hemimetabolous.
Fun facts: There are about 2,000 species in Mantodea. Males are usually smaller than females.
Mantids are found mostly in tropical climates; a few species are found in North America.
Eggs are laid in an oötheca. Some females will protect their oötheca.
First-instar nymphs do not feed, but moult immediately. The number of instars varies between species from three to 12.
Adult mantids are ambush predators. Their mobile heads and excellent sight are used to detect prey.
As most people know, female mantids can consume the male during or after copulation. This only occurs in some species. Some may think this is an evolutionarily unstable practice. However, it makes sense from a few points. Males have achieved their "life goal", to pass on their genetic material to the next generation. Some insect males bring mating gifts of food to their mates to prove suitability to mate, for females to eat and use the energy for egg production. The females consumption of their mates just cuts out the middle man, so to speak.
Mantids' main predators include bats, birds, snakes, spiders, and each other (mantids are highly cannibalistic, see above, and will even eat siblings in the nest).
Mantodea meas "prophet" in Greek, refering to the praying pose held by adult mantids.
Mantodea are the sister group to Blattodea. Many features are shared, including strong direct flight muscles and weak indirect flight muscles, asymmetrical male genitalia and multisegmented cerci. Some taxonomists group Mantodea and Blattodea into one group, order Dictyoptera, but more recently, Dictyoptera is considered by some to be a subdivision of Neoptera and not an order.
sourced, in part, by The Insects: An outline of entomology, second ed. Gullan, P.J. and P.S. Cranston. Blackwell Science, Great Britain, 2000.