The praying mantis
Ahh. Stagomantis Aridifolia Sinsensis. A name that stirs something deep inside my heart. IFirst, we'll learn what the mantis looks like. Then I'll move on to its unique talents and mantis folklore, finishing up with the food chain: what eats the mantis and what the mantis eats. Buckle your seat belts and prepare for a wild ride as you learn about one of the most amazing animals on earth!
Mantids come in a huge variety of decorator colors, including brown, green, white, and even PINK! I mentioned pink because I knew that girls would be more favorably disposed towards the praying mantis. One of the mantids that has a remarkably startling appearance is the orchid mantis. Some are white and some are pink, others with both colors. Also, their legs and neck have flower petals all over them. They have an absolutely amazing camouflage. When they are perched on a flower, usually an orchid, even the human eye could miss their deceptive form. But for a bee, fly, or butterfly, the task is almost impossible. They don't see the mantis until...until it's over. Some of the orchid mantids are only 3/4 of an inch long.
But mantids get even smaller. The pygmy mantis, when full-grown, is only 2/5 of an inch long! However, mantids aren't always that small. I'm sure every woman in the United States would scream their heads off if they saw a certain species of jungle mantis (and I wouldn't blame them). Since some are about six inches long, your mom would not be happy if she saw one crawling across her carpet. This jungle mantis is not only huge, it's downright hideous. They are military brown with ugly bumps all over them. I like weird, strange, and ugly animals, but this mantis sends a shiver down my back. Ugh. Oh, by the way, six inches is as long as my foot. When I was younger, I was crazy about dinosaurs. Now I'm crazy about a different kind of dinosaur: the mantid. They may be small for a dinosaur, but they're huge for a bug. What really kills me is that some people say the mantis is related to the cockroach. Man, I would hate to discover that I had a cousin as revolting as a cockroach. I can understand that six-inch mantis being related to a cockroach, but the beautiful orchid mantis? C'mon.
THE MANTIS IS UNIQUE AND HAS MANY TALENTS - BECAUSE OF THIS THERE IS A LOT OF MANTIS FOLKLORE
The mantis has many novel abilities. It is the only insect that can turn its head 180 degrees. Also, the mantis has incredible eyesight for a bug. In fact, while most insects can only see a few feet away, the mantis can see up to 60 ft. Though mantids are a strong flier, they usually prefer to stay on the ground. However, God has given them an amazing talent for when they do fly. Bats will feast on most flying insects, but they do not usually get to eat a mantis. Apparently, the mantis in flight will totally change its flight pattern, often diving towards the ground in a crazy spiral when certain frequencies of sound are heard by the mantis. Researchers discovered this in an experiment with some mantids, a huge gymnasium, and topnotch cameras with recordings of bats. The researchers also discovered that the louder the bat recordings were played, the more drastic the mantids' flights would change. Mantids accomplish this incredible feat with ultrasonic hearing from an ear in the middle of their chest. This all happened by evolution - right?
Mantids are famous in many cultures. In some places they are considered holy. Others believe that if you are lost and you see a mantis, you should go in the direction it's facing - that will lead you home. Many Muslims believe that the mantis always prays towards Mecca. Whether or not mantids always pray in the direction of Mecca I have no idea, but I do know that they don't pray to Allah. I thank God for the unique talents he has given them.
THE FOOD CHAIN: WHAT THE MANTIS EATS AND WHAT EATS THE MANTIS
Mantids have very few predators, only the spider and the crow. This is VERY interesting because most animals, especially insects, have lots of predators to watch out for. However, though the mantis does not get eaten by many predators, THEY eat a lot of different food. To aid in gripping their prey, God has given them spines on their front legs. When they catch something tasty (for them at least), these spines help to grip the food. The mantis has a varied diet. Some of the larger mantids will eat frogs, hummingbirds (sob), lizards, and even mice (yes!) if they are given half a chance.
Sad, but amazing for those hummingbirds. Fortunately for hummingbirds, most mantids are not big enough to catch and eat a hummingbird. The average mantis doesn't usually eat such large food. Flies, bees, beetles, butterflies, spiders, mosquitoes, crickets, grasshoppers, and other mantids are usually on the menu. Mantids are one, if not the only, animals quick enough to catch flies and mosquitoes. I absolutely love mantids because they eat grasshoppers. I have declared war on all grasshoppers because they eat our plants. Sometimes, however, they are pests. Many beekeepers don't like mantids because praying mantids will sit outside the hive and eat the bees as they come out. The other thing mantids usually eat is...each other. Yes, they are cannibals. Unfortunately, the females are usually bigger than the males, so the guys are usually the ones who are eaten. To sum up the cannibalistic stuff I would have to say that if you put two mantids in the same jar...you'll soon have only one mantis. A fat one.
You have now learned about the mantis's unique appearance, the mantids special talents, and the food chain: what eats the mantis, and what the mantis eats. Y'now, I would say that after hearing about the hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies being eaten, you might smash every mantis you see. But before you gush one with your shoe, remember that they eat flies, spiders, and mice. If you like plants, I recommend that you put zillions in your garden to eat the grasshoppers. Oh, by the way, my dad mail-ordered 1,000 jungle mantids to eat all the mice in our house!