Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

January 28, 2016
Praying mantises can be ballistic hunters

The praying mantis is a weaponized insect that uses its capabilities for defense, hunting, and even mating. Although praying mantises will avoid confrontation by concealing themselves within their habitat, they will resort to making themselves look bigger by spreading their forelegs, standing taller, fanning out their wings, and will sometimes even hiss if poked or probed.

However, if further provoked or picked up against their will, they will resort to drastic actions by biting and stabbing their enemy repeatedly. Inflicted wounds or bites can be painful, but are not poisonous.

Because of its advantages in size, colors, eye vision and use of forelegs, the praying mantis is a very talented hunter, making them predators of many species. Praying mantises can vary in length from three to six inches, turn their heads a full 180 degrees to look over their shoulder and will eat almost anything they can catch that is smaller than they are. Their color is intended for camouflage and their remarkable vision allows them to spot food up to 20 meters away. As for their forelegs, the praying mantis uses these dagger-like weapons to stab, pierce and clutch prey. Their prey not only includes other insects, but praying mantises have been known to kill and devour snakes, fish, frogs, lizards, scorpions, rodents and even smaller birds.

Though reproduction is not really hunting, it does sometimes turn out to be lunchtime for a mating female. During copulation, female praying mantises are known to devour the head and sometimes the limbs of the male, so that she may increase her fertility through the male’s nutrients. However, sometimes males have been known to fly away, immediately evacuating after mating. Newly hatched mantises have also been known to cannibalize on their siblings until they all spread out from their cocoon.

Taylor Lindsay is a writer and photographer of wildlife creatures big and small. She can be contacted at CritterChatter@live.com. 

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