Praying Mantids
Black Bark Mantid 
Brown Bark Mantid
Brown-legged Bark Mantid 
Spiny Bark Mantid
Garden Praying Mantid
Black Groung Mantid
Tree-running Mantid 
False Garden Mantid
Purplewinged Mantid
Large Brown Mantid
Burying Mantid 
Other Mantids 


Praying Mantids - Order Mantodea

This page contains pictures and information about praying mantids, or praying mantis, that we found in the Brisbane area, Queensland, Australia.
Praying Mantid - The Insects Predator
Praying Mantids are from medium to large in size. They have elongated body and free movable triangular head. Their antennae are slender, segmented and longer in male than in female. The pro-thorax is usually narrow and elongate. Their fore-legs are spiny and strong. They have hardened forewings for protection and membranous hind wings for flying, although some species are wingless. Praying Mantids hold their wings flat over the abdomen. The wings of male are usually functional while wings of female often reduced or even absent. 
Praying Mantids have strong mouthparts for chewing, together with their large eyes well apart on each side, form their mobile triangular head. Some times the Mantis various stances look like meditation techniques often practiced by humans. 
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They are predators to other insects. They have strong forelegs with spines in between. Most mantids sit and wait among the vegetation ready to grasp unsuspecting prey by their powerful forelegs.  They wait motionless with their forelegs together as praying. This gave them the name - Praying Mantids. Some species have bright colour fore-arms or have bright spot on the inner side of fore-arms. They sometimes put up the boxing gesture showing the bright colour for territorial display purpose. 
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Pray Mantids blend in the habitat, avoid being seen.  
Usually Praying Mantids are green or brown in colour and are well camouflaged. Camouflage is important in Praying Mantids. As predators, this avoid being noticed by prey. As preys for many other predators, such as birds, lazards and small mammals, they must not be seen to avoid being eaten. Praying Mantids have very long legs. They attacked with lightening fast striking actions. However, they do not run nor fly quickly. They heavily rely on camouflage to avoid predators. 
Mantids are never found in large number and they are well camouflaged. They are not easily encountered. Most of them hunt both in day and night but usually more active in the dark time.   
Praying Mantids development cycle is in-complete metamorphosis.
There is a popular misconception that Praying Mantids have an unusual mating behavior similar to the Black Widow Spiders, that the female will cut the head of  the male during the early stage of mating and when finished mating, the female often eats the entire male. This is only happen in a few species and only at certain times. However, cannibalism is common in praying mantids.

Classification :

There are three Praying Mantid families in Australia. We found two families in Brisbane and listed as follows. The third family Hymenopodidae is a small family only found in North Queensland.

Family Amorphoscelidae
The Mantids in this family are small to medium in size. Most have good cryptic colour and body shape. Some have the colours of bark and some mimic ants. They hunt on ground or on tree trunks. Usually females are wingless or with reduced wings while males are fully winged. Females and males may look very different.

Family Mantidae
This family contains 80% of the Praying Mantids species found in Australia. Usually they are large in size. On their front arm, they have two rows of spines, which is different from a single row of other families.

Ootheca - Mantids eggs case

Female mantid lays eggs in a case called ootheca, which are often species distinctive. The number of 1st instars hatch from the ootheca can be from 10 to 400 depends on species. Most species lay the ootheca on plants, either on trunk, stems or on leaves.  

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Large Brown Mantid Ootheca                              Large Brown Mantid Ootheca                               Purplewinged Mantid Ootheca 
The Praying Mantids are also suffer from parasitise by Parasitic Wasps. Those small holes on Ootheca in pictures were made by those wasps when they emerged. 
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Garden Praying Mantid Ootheca                           Bark Mantid Ootheca                                           False Garden Mantid Ootheca 
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The ootheca are often parasitised by numbers of wasp species in genus Podagrion

Questions for Discussion

Why Praying Mantids move in step towards its prey? 

When a Praying Mantids moving towards its prey, they move in step, i.e.., they move forwards a little bit and then stop, a seconds later, it move another step and then stop, until they reach their prey. This kind of motion may be more famous in the chameleon and some of the lizards. They move in steps and stop. We can also  see this kinds of movement in some spiders. This may look funny to our human eyes, but I think there is the advantage for so many animal are doing this. Since all of them are predator to insects, I spectacular that this kind of motions could be invisible to insects eyes. This kind of motions may be not sensitive to the insect eyes. So the insects predators evolutes this kind of motions to approach the prey. 

When the praying mantid is very close to it prey, why it starts to swing it head side way? Why the eyes of praying mantid are separated more than other insects?

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We can also notice that when the praying mantid is very close to the prey, it start to swing it head left and right. I gauss the praying mantid doing this is to measure the distance from the prey accurately.  By swinging its head, the mantid create the viewing angle with the prey, as the above picture. With the larger viewing angle, the more accurate distance can be calculated.
The larger view angle can also explain why the praying mantids have their eyes more separated than the other insects so that they can locate precisely their prey at close distance

Here we would like to thank Graham Milledge of Australian Museum for he correcting some mistakes in this web site.

1. Insects of Australia, CSIRO, Division of Entomology, Melbourne University Press, 2nd Edition 1991, pp 351-355.
2. Insects of Australia and New Zealand - R. J. Tillyard, Angus & Robertson, Ltd, Sydney, 1926, p93.
3. Grasshopper Country - the Abundant Orthopteroid Insects of Australia, D Rentz, UNSW Press, 1996 p233.
4. Northern Territory Insects, A Comprehensive Guide CD - Graham Brown, 2009.
5. Order MANTODEA - Australian Faunal Directory, Australian Biological Resources Study. 

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Family Amorphoscelidae ] Family Mantidae ] Unknown Mantids ]


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Last updated: February 09, 2013.