Igor's praying mantis pictures

Igor Siwanowicz is a biologist who is also an incredible macro photographer. His photos of praying mantises like the mantis above are fabulous. His book, "Animals Up Close" is available on Amazon. More of his pictures



Photo: Cathy Keifer

New Discovery

Recently in Japan, a preying mantis was found preserved in amber. It is thought to be 87 million years old. Ancient mantids discovered previously did not have the 5 or 6 spikes on legs as our modern day mantises have. However, this one had two. Source: National Geographic



Just In Time For Halloween


Mantis Religiosa

Also known as European Mantis in the US. Was brought into this country by accident as a part of a nursery stock shipment. Was hoped it would devour lots of gypsy moths, but since the mantis eats too many of its own there aren't enough to do too much damage to gypsy moth populations.

Praying Mantises Do Fly

Although praying mantises fly, it's not something they do a lot of. Flying from one branch to another or when threatened and that's about it. Female mantises are usually too heavy to fly. But their wings are pretty cool to look at.

How Many Praying Mantises?

There are about 2,000 species of praying mantis in the world. They live on every continent except Antarctica. Their home; bush, tree, flower or shrub, usually remains the same throughout their short lives. So what's with the orange?

Chemicals Kill Mantids

If you are enjoying praying mantises in your yard and garden, be very careful if you use chemicals. Praying mantises are very vulnerable to chemicals and you can kill them off very easily. I used to see a lot of them when I was growing up. But, as I got older I didn't see many at all. Perhaps, that is because so many chemicals were introduced as lawn and garden necessities. Now I am seeing them all over the place. Hopefully, that means we're more aware of the harmful effects of chemicals and are using them less.


Male & Female Adult Orchid Mantis

Look at the difference of size between the female orchid mantis and the male. The female orchid mantis lives longer than the male especially if she is hungry after mating and decides the male would suffice as a food source.

Malaysian Orchid Praying Mantis

The orchid mantis or Hymenopus coronatus is a beautiful mantis that lives in Asian rain forests. Their legs look like flower petals and as they mature their bodies change to resemble the colors of their environment. The Mantis photo above has coloring that allows them to blend in with the orchids or other tropical flower while waiting for the unsuspecting pollinating insects.

What Do Praying Mantises Eat?

The praying mantis is a powerful hunter and will eat just about every insect in your garden. Crickets, grasshoppers, locusts, fruit flies, beetles, moths, flies, spiders, mosquitoes and bees need to keep their distance because they are all considered prey. Praying mantises will sometimes attack snakes, hummingbirds, frogs and lizards. Preying mantises are a much better choice than chemical insecticides. They eat the bugs without the harmful stuff that creates disease. Besides, they're great to look at. Like having your own garden ET.

Love Those Eyes

The praying mantis, like most insects, have compound eyes which gives them a very effective visual system. It's as if they had a pair of binoculars attached to their head. They have the ability of detecting distances and are thought to be able to see movement up to 60 feet away. They are the only insect that can turn it's head 180 degrees giving them a field of vision of 300 degrees. Their eye color changes as light conditions change.


Chinese Praying Mantis

This is a Chinese Mantis. For those of you who love scientific names and the challenge of pronouncing them, it is a Tenodera sinensis. They are thought to be the largest of the mantids in the U.S. growing to be about 4 inches. They were brought over from China in the 1800's for natural pest control. This was a much more successful import than the Asian ladybugs that were brought into this country for the same reason. 

The Asian ladybugs are destroying the ladybug species that is indigenous to this country, the ones we remember with affection from our childhood. They are more aggressive and are invading people's homes in large numbers all over the country. Since they do not die during the winter, but instead hibernate, their populations are increasing at a rapid rate.

Here's hoping praying mantids will develop a great appetite for the the Asian ladybugs so the original ladybugs, if there are any left, can flourish once again.


Hanging Out

This praying mantis has been hanging out on my patio for quite a while now. Moths spend the night under the lathe not realizing they will probably become a mantis breakfast. Every now and then I will release a cricket in case the moths have outsmarted her. Not likely. But I've developed affection for this insect so providing the crickets every now & then makes me feel good. She probably doesn't care.



Here is another picture of my "pet" praying mantis that I named Phoenix. A week after I took this photo she disappeared. Since praying mantises have a life span of 6 months to a year she may have left this earth. Or, maybe she's off depositing egg cases around the yard and she'll appear again to say good bye. That would be my first choice. I miss her.