Praying mantis on a leaf

Praying mantis

Praying mantises are insects with a distinctly alien look about them. Their other-worldly appearance is characterised by a triangular head, large compound eyes and prominent spikey front legs. It is these folded fore-limbs that give rise to their common name, as they are held in a prayer-like position. One of the more bizarre and gruesome behaviours is that of sexual cannibalism where the female eats the male after, or even during, mating.

Most of the 2,400 species of mantis are ambush predators, waiting patiently for prey to stray within striking distance. They devour any unfortunate victims alive, often head first. Praying mantises can effectively blend into the background to use for both attack and defence, with some going as far as looking like leaves, grass or even stones.

Scientific name: Mantodea

Rank: Order

Common names:

  • Mantes,
  • Mantids

Watch video clips from past programmes (1 clip)

In order to see this content you need to have an up-to-date version of Flash installed and Javascript turned on.

Distribution

The Praying mantis can be found in a number of locations including: Africa, Amazon Rainforest, Asia, Australia, China, Europe, Indian subcontinent, Mediterranean, North America, South America. Find out more about these places and what else lives there.

Behaviours

Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web

Classification

  1. Life
  2. Animals
  3. Arthropods
  4. Insects
  5. Praying mantis

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.