Once upon a time, zoologists put the mantis on a par with cockroaches. It was rather flattering for the second, and very disappointing for the first. But since no one ever hears the opinion of insects, the mantis is still referred to as a cockroach-like detachment, although, we agree, they do not have much in common with the inhabitants of the kitchens.
Take, for example, the Chinese. They once created a style of struggle, which they called it - the style of a mantis. But the Chinese for some reason did not create a cockroach style. And, actually, why? Because the cockroach is a night beater, greedy for crumbs from the master's table, cowardly and generally an unpleasant person, it’s even disgusting to take it in your hands.
What about a mantis? Mantis is power. He will not pick up crumbs. Serve the mantis exclusively live food, such that it spins, screams and resists, so that the mantis has every reason to demonstrate its fighting qualities.
And so on the table of this bloodthirsty insect in abundance there are small birds, frogs, lizards, rodents and even small-sized snakes.
Moreover, if the praying mantis does not serve the live snake for breakfast on time, he will bite his conscience without any twinge of conscience if he turns up under his paw.
So the Chinese knew what they were doing when they turned away from the cockroaches with contempt and created a mantis fighting school.
They may be near
The praying mantis has many more original differences both from its relatives in the squad and from other inhabitants of our planet.
Firstly, the mantis has only one ear, but it hears perfectly, which is already alarming. Secondly, the mantis is the only insect that can turn its head in different directions and even look over its shoulder - is there anyone sneaking behind. Thirdly, the mantis is very large - up to 11 centimeters in length, and therefore self-confident insects.
When a praying mantis eats, he does not hurry anywhere, does not look around nervously (although he may look back, we just mentioned that). He knows that the food will not go anywhere from him - simply because he has just bitten off her head, just to avoid an escape. And that no one will take this food from him - the gut is thin.
Even praying mantises are known for being able to disguise themselves even better than the famous chameleons. Do not believe? Have you seen a live chameleon? Surely, they saw. What about a mantis? Here it is. And you won’t see, and he, perhaps, is sitting right in front of your nose now, and he is thinking: from which part of the body should you start?
Okay, the last one is a joke. We have already listed the gastronomic addictions of the mantis and homo sapiens in this bloody list, fortunately, are not included.
You can talk about the courage (and perhaps recklessness) of the mantis for hours. The author himself once saw in Cyprus just a huge praying mantis, which sat right in the middle of the highway, looking with hatred at the cars that neatly circled it. Exclusively out of love for animals, he had to be picked up and carried to the sidelines. You should have seen with what contempt he perceived this action. There is even a suspicion that after waiting a while, the mantis returned to the highway - maybe he had serious things there, but we, due to the poverty of our minds, simply did not understand this and decided to help.
Praying mantises are all serious, even, if not to say - especially seriously, in intimate relationships. When praying mantises start a family, there are no sighs of sighs, and no one flies to the wedding from the other end of the country.
The Praying Mantis Family is a ready-made story for the box office horror movie. Judge for yourself: if in the process, so to speak, of creating offspring, the female is hungry, then she does not say: “Stop, dear, now I quickly run to the kitchen and cook us a hot sandwich.” Nothing like this! The female simply turns her head 180 degrees (and the mantis can do this, we have already mentioned this feature more than once) and ... bites off the male’s head!
What is interesting: the process of making children with this action does not stop, but does not even stray from the rhythm taken at the very beginning. But even if the female did not have time to get hungry, at the end of the wedding night, the smart male will pretend to be dead for the same reason that he would not be eaten - the stationary objects of the mantis are not consumed. And, only making sure that the female stepped aside and went about her business, the male quietly disappears from her field of vision, thus lengthening her life somewhat.
But, more often than not, the male is eaten “in the process”. It is clear that the headless male is not a male, and therefore, after the first wedding night, his life, not only family life, but in general - ends. The female behaves as if nothing had happened, and the praying mantis appearing after some time are so raised that they never ask where their dad is and what happened to him? So their mother does not have to lie that dad is a pilot, and he crashed on top-secret tests of new wings.
Speaking of wings. Praying mantises have wings, both in males and in females, but females do not use them - since they, females, are very large, their wings simply do not raise them. But the males will be able to fly, but, again, not far, say, from a branch to the nearest branch.
Who needs his prayer?
We never told why this amazing insect was called, actually, a praying mantis?
As you can see from the pictures, most likely for a characteristic gesture: raised up, as if in front of a prayer front legs.
In fact, a praying mantis never prays to anyone.
And the raised legs, decorated with characteristic notches and capable of being laid out like two penknives, are, in fact, a threatening gesture of attack and defense at the same time, as if saying: “If you want to live, stay away.”
Origin of view and description
Praying mantises are not just a species, but a whole suborder of arthropod insects with many species, which number up to two thousand. All of them have the same habits and a similar body structure, differ only in color, size and habitat. All praying mantises are predatory insects, absolutely ruthless and incredibly gluttonous, which slowly rush to deal with their prey, enjoying the whole process.
The mantis got its academic name in the 18th century. The renowned naturalist Karl Linay named this creature the name "Mantis religiosa" or "religious priest" due to the unusual pose of the insect during an ambush, which was similar to the pose of a praying person. In some countries, this strange insect has less harmonious names due to its terrible habits, for example, in Spain, the mantis is known as the “devil's horse”.
Praying mantis is an ancient insect and there is still a debate in the scientific community about its origin. Some believe that this species came from ordinary cockroaches, others have a different opinion, highlighting them a separate evolutionary path.
Interesting fact: One of the styles of Chinese martial arts wushu is called a mantis. An ancient legend says that the Chinese peasant came up with this style, watching the exciting battles of these predatory insects.
Appearance and features
Photo: What does a mantis look like
Almost all types of mantis have an elongated body of a special structure. A triangular, very movable head is able to rotate 360 degrees. The insect's faceted eyes are located on the lateral edges of the head, have a complex structure, and three more ordinary eyes are located on the base of the whiskers. The oral apparatus is a gnawing type. Antenna can be filiform or comb depending on the type.
The pronotum rarely overlaps the head of the insect; the abdomen itself consists of ten segments. The last section of the abdomen ends with paired appendages from multiple segments, which are the organs of smell. The forelimbs are equipped with sturdy spikes to help grab the victim. Almost all mantis have a well-developed front and rear pair of wings, thanks to which the insect can fly. The narrow, dense wings of the front pair protect the second pair of wings. The hind wings are wide with many membranes, folded in the form of a fan.
The color of the insect can be different: from dark brown to bright green and even pink-lilac, with a characteristic pattern and spots on the wings. There are very large individuals, reaching 14-16 cm in length, and very small specimens up to 1 cm are also found.
Particularly interesting views:
- common mantis is the most common species. The body size of the insect reaches 6-7 centimeters and has a green or brown color with a characteristic dark spot on the front legs on the inside,
- Chinese look - has a very large size up to 15 cm, the color is the same as that of ordinary mantis, different nightlife,
- spiky-eyed mantis - an African giant that can disguise itself as dry twigs,
- orchid - the most beautiful of the species, got its name due to its similarity with the flower of the same name. Females grow to 8 mm, males are half as much
- flowery Indian and prickly appearance - are distinguished by a bright color with a characteristic spot on the front wings in the form of an eye. They live in Asia and India, have a small size - only 30-40 mm.
Where does the mantis live?
Photo: Praying Mantis in Russia
The habitat of the mantis is very extensive and captures many countries in Asia, Southern and Central Europe, Africa, South America. Numerous populations of mantis are in Spain, Portugal, China, India, Greece, Cyprus. Some species live in Belarus, Tatarstan, Germany, Azerbaijan, and Russia. Predatory insects were introduced to Australia and North America, where they also successfully reproduce.
In tropical and subtropical conditions, mantises live:
- in forests with high humidity,
- in rocky deserts warmed by the scorching sun.
In Europe, mantises are common in the steppes, spacious meadows. These are heat-loving creatures that very poorly tolerate temperatures below 20 degrees. Recently, some regions of Russia are periodically subjected to a real invasion of praying mantises, who migrate from other countries in search of food.
Mantis change their habitat very rarely. Having chosen one tree or even a branch, they remain on it all their lives if there is enough food around. Insects actively move only during the mating season, in the presence of danger or in the absence of the required number of objects for hunting. Mantis feel great in terrariums. The most comfortable ambient temperature for them is 25-30 degrees with humidity not less than 60 percent. They do not drink water, because they get everything they need from food. Under natural conditions, some more aggressive and stronger species can displace smaller ones, up to complete extermination in a certain area.
Interesting fact: In several regions of South Asia, carnivorous mantises are specially bred in artificial conditions as an effective weapon against malaria mosquitoes and other insects that carry dangerous infectious diseases.
Now you know where the mantis lives. Let's find out what the insect eats.
What does a mantis eat?
Photo: Mantis female
Being a predator, a praying mantis eats only live food and never picks carrion. These insects are very voracious and they need to constantly hunt.
The main diet of adults is:
- other insects, such as mosquitoes, flies, beetles and bees, while the size of the prey can even exceed the size of a predator,
- large species are able to attack small amphibians, small birdies and rodents,
- very often the relatives become food, including their own offspring.
Cannibalism among mantis is common, and exciting fights between praying mantises flare up very often.
Interesting fact: Larger and more aggressive females often eat their stalls during mating. This is due to a critical lack of protein necessary for the development of offspring. As a rule, at the very beginning of mating, the female bites off the male’s head, and after completion of the process eats it completely. If the female is not hungry, then the future father manages to retire on time.
These predators do not run after their prey. With the help of their specific color, they effectively disguise themselves among twigs or flowers and wait for the approach of their prey, rushing at it from the ambush with lightning speed. They grab the prey of the mantis with powerful forelimbs, and then, squeezing between the thigh, equipped with spikes and lower leg, they slowly eat another living creature. The special structure of the oral apparatus, powerful jaws allow literally tearing pieces out of the victim's flesh.
Features of character and lifestyle
Photo: Mantis Insect
Praying mantises are solitary predators that do not leave their usual place of residence or do it in exceptional cases: in search of richer food places, escaping from a stronger enemy. If males are able, if necessary, to fly long enough distances, then females are extremely reluctant because of their larger size. For their offspring, they not only do not care, but on the contrary can easily feast on them. Having laid eggs, the female completely forgets about them, perceiving the younger generation exclusively as food.
These insects are distinguished by their agility, lightning reaction, cruelty, they are able to hunt and eat individuals twice as large as themselves. Females are especially aggressive. They do not fail and will finish off their victim for a long time and purposefully. They hunt mainly during the day, and in the dark they are quiet among the foliage. Some species, such as the Chinese mantis, prefer a nocturnal lifestyle. All praying mantises are unsurpassed masters of disguise, they are easily transformed by a dry twig or flower, merging with foliage.
Interesting fact: In the middle of the 20th century, a program was developed in the Soviet Union for the use of praying mantises in agriculture as a protection against harmful insects. Later this idea had to be completely abandoned, since in addition to pests, mantises actively destroyed bees and other insects useful for farming.
Social structure and reproduction
Photo: Male Praying Mantis
Praying mantises live from two months to one year, in rare cases, some individuals cross the line in a year and a half, but only in artificially created conditions. Young growth is capable of breeding just a couple of weeks after birth. During their life, females participate in mating games twice, males often do not survive the first breeding period, which usually begins in August at mid-latitudes and ends in September, and in warmer climates it can last almost all year.
The male attracts the female with his dance and the release of a specific sticky secret, by the smell of which she recognizes her kind in him and does not attack. The mating process can last from 6 to 8 hours, as a result of which not every future father is lucky - more than half of them are eaten by a hungry partner. The female lays eggs in an amount of 100 to 300 pieces at a time on the edges of leaves or on the bark of trees. During masonry, it secretes a special liquid, which then hardens, forming a cocoon or puff to protect offspring from external factors.
The stage of an egg can last from several weeks to six months, depending on air temperature, after which larvae crawl out into the light, which in appearance radically differ from their parents.The first molt passes after immediately after hatching and there will be at least four before they become similar to their adult relatives. Larvae develop very quickly, already after birth they begin to feed on small flies and mosquitoes.
Natural enemies of mantis
Photo: What does a mantis look like
In natural conditions, mantis have a lot of enemies:
- they can be eaten by many birds, rodents, including flying ones, snakes,
- cannibalism is very common among these insects, eating their own offspring, as well as alien young animals.
In the wild, you can sometimes observe quite spectacular battles between these aggressive insects, as a result of which one of the fighters will be surely eaten. The lion's share of the mantis does not die from birds, snakes and other enemies, but from its own eternally hungry relatives.
Interesting fact: If a mantis is attacked by an enemy that is larger than it, then it lifts up and opens the lower wings, which have a picture in the form of a large awesome eye. Along with this, the insect begins to rustle its wings loudly and make sharp clicking sounds, trying to scare the enemy. If the trick fails, then the mantis either attacks or tries to fly away.
To protect and disguise themselves from their enemies, mantises use the unusualness of their color. They merge with the surrounding objects, some types of these insects can literally turn into flower buds, for example, an orchid mantis, or into a small living twig that can only be given out by especially especially mobile antennae and head.
Population and species status
The populations of some species of this unusual insect are becoming smaller, especially for species living in the northern and central regions of Europe. In warmer regions, the status of the mantis population is stable. The main threat to these insects is not their natural enemies, but human activity, as a result of which forests are cut down, fields that are the habitat of the mantis are plowed up. There are situations when one species crowds out another, for example, a tree praying mantis, inhabiting a certain area, crowds out an ordinary praying mantis, since it is distinguished by special voracity, it is stronger and more aggressive than its congener.
In cooler areas, these insects breed very slowly and the larvae may not be born until six months, so their numbers recover extremely long. The main task for maintaining the population is to keep the steppes and fields intact by agricultural machinery. Praying mantises can be very useful for agriculture, especially less aggressive species.
For a man, praying mantises are not dangerous despite their sometimes very frightening appearance and formidable hiss. Some very large individuals, due to their strong jaws, can damage the skin, so they should be kept away from children. Such an amazing and strange insect as mantisleaves no one indifferent. While many scientific minds continue to argue about the main stages of its evolution and ancient ancestors, some, having carefully examined the mantis, call it an insect that came from another planet, a creature of extraterrestrial origin.
Mantis is a very peculiar name for an insect. Who called him that and why? The initiator of this name was Karl Linnaeus.
When an insect takes a wait-and-see attitude while hunting, it folds its legs in a way that is very similar to the figure of a praying person.
What do they eat
Praying mantises with their external harmlessness prey not only on insects. They are quite able to overcome in the battle of lizards, small amphibians and even birds.
At the same time, they are not afraid of the toxicity of production, they may well have a snack, for example, a black widow.
Probably the most common fact from the life of the mantis that made them famous is that the female eats her mate after mating.
This, by the way, is not entirely reliable. After mating, females destroy the male only in 50 cases. The remaining 50 may begin to devour him in the process, for example, by biting his head, this does not affect fertilization.
A strange way to lay eggs
Praying mantises take care of their offspring, they lay their eggs in a kind of capsule - ooteks. They are laid in several rows and poured with special material, which includes protein.
These manipulations help the eggs to survive at low temperatures, and also protect against exposure to deadly and harmful substances.
Can praying mantises fly?
Mantis can rarely be seen flying, although they are equipped with perfectly developed wings. Why do they rarely and reluctantly use them?
It is elementary to fly mantis because of the rather large weight. In addition, the structure of the body makes flying difficult.
Praying mantises have a unique ability to merge with the surrounding nature. Their appearance may resemble a twig, a leaf of a tree, and there are also some species that are incredibly very similar to flowers, for example, orchids.
Mantis regularly molt. But this process is associated with a number of difficulties and usually causes the mantis a lot of trouble. It turns out that in order to change the skin, they need to thoroughly soak it. Shedding requires very high humidity.
Moreover, if the mantis is like a flower, then with each molt the insect will more and more resemble a plant, in fact, they can not even be distinguished.
Praying mantises are incredible insects, peculiar, attractive in their aggression, some of them are very beautiful. It is interesting to watch them.
Praying mantises are amazing insects, they strike not only with their peculiar appearance, but also with behavior features. It turns out that these essentially small creatures are formidable predators, capable of keeping small animals and insects at bay over a large area. The strange name is Mantis - a very peculiar name for an insect. Who called him that and why? The initiator of this name ...