Mantis: is a member of the Mantid or Mantidae family. Australia
is home to about 80 species. We will not try to identify the species
illustrated but it is reasonably common in the gardens at Yallaroo.
The Praying Mantis is a strange looking insect. It could not be confused with
any other six-legged organism.
Four, slender rear legs support the body. The thorax, which carries the wings,
is long and narrow and is surmounted by a triangular head. Two angles, of the
triangle are formed by bulging, compound eyes. The third angle by a pointed
mouth armed with sharply pointed mandibles or teeth. This equipment is typical
of a carnivorous insect.
The head is particularly interesting. A mobile neck supports it. This
enables the insect to twist its head from side to side. This ability, to move
the head, may be unique amongst insects.
The forelegs (nearest the head) are perfect insect traps. They are equipped
with slender, needle-sharp spines. When at rest the leg sections, with spines,
are held together rather like a penknife blade fitting into its handle. At
rest the insect has a prayer-like appearance. Once the legs open and clamp
onto its prey there is no chance of escape. The prey is held fast and the
Preying Mantis is able to feed at its leisure.
The Praying Mantis is a solitary insect except at mating time. Females are
usually larger and more heavily built than males. Males have well-developed
wings whilst females make do with reduced wings.
After pairing the female usually devours the male and sometimes the hapless
male is eaten during copulation.
About a week after mating the female exudes a gummy fluid from the rear of her
abdomen. The fluid is mixed with air bubbles, dries rapidly and forms a
weatherproof mass that has the eggs embedded in rows. This capsule is known as
an ootheca (see image).
Depending on weather conditions the eggs hatch within weeks or months. Before
hatching some eggs are parasitised by a small wasp. The Praying Mantis may
have a life span between eight to twelve months.
The Praying Mantis is an interesting and useful insect. Because they feed on
other insects we consider them to be part of biological pest control at
Please remember that poisonous sprays will kill Praying Mantis and other
useful insects as well as destroying harmful insects.