7 Strange Facts About Praying Mantises

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Have you ever seen a praying mantis waiting with eerie stillness to catch its next victim? It’s hard not to do a double take when you see one of these large, human-like insects.

Their name refers to the insects’ imposing front legs that are bent at an angle as if they are folded in prayer. There are approximately 2,000 different species of praying mantises throughout the world, and their mystique is global.

French folklore suggests a praying mantis can point a lost child back to her home. In Arabic and Turkish cultures, a mantis was thought to point towards Mecca. In Africa, the mantis was fabled to restore life to the dead. And they are used to treat a number of illnesses in China, such as impotence and thyroid enlargement.

Here are some lesser known facts about these intriguing insects:

Most mantises in the U.S. are not native.

The vast majority of mantises live in the tropics. Only 18 native species have ever been discovered on the entire North American continent. All the rest are imported species.

They’re the only insect able to turn its head 180 degrees side-to-side.

Praying mantises have a unique, flexible joint between their head and prothorax that allows them to swivel their heads. This creepy trait makes a mantis seem even more humanoid when it can turn its head and look at you.

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They can see movement up to 60 feet away.

The praying mantis is the only insect known to have the ability to see in three dimensions, the same as humans. When you add this to their ability to rotate their head, it’s clear why they are accomplished hunters.

Females sometimes eat their mates.

Perhaps the most sensational fact about mantises is how the females are known to devour their mates during intercourse. This seems to occur most often when the female is hungry, but eating the male’s head also causes the body to ejaculate faster.

Gory details aside, most instances of sexual cannibalization occur in a laboratory setting. In the wild, scientists believe the male only gets eaten 5-30 percent of the time. During one experiment, a mantis pair was observed in copulation for an average of six hours, and the male flew away after mating.
Mantis-eating-sized

They’re not selective eaters.

Mantises are often touted as a great beneficial insect. It’s true they’re skilled predators, but before you introduce them to your yard, be aware they don’t stop at a few pesky aphids or cabbage worms.

They have a huge appetite and have been known to eat up to sixteen crickets per day. Mantises prey on many different types of insects, including beneficial ones like bees and ladybugs, as well as small birds, frogs, lizards, and occasionally other mantises.

They’re not selective eaters.

Mantises are often touted as a great beneficial insect. It’s true they’re skilled predators, but before you introduce them to your yard, be aware they don’t stop at a few pesky aphids or cabbage worms.

They have a huge appetite and have been known to eat up to sixteen crickets per day. Mantises prey on many different types of insects, including beneficial ones like bees and ladybugs, as well as small birds, frogs, lizards, and occasionally other mantises.

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