Monday, August 10, 2009


Finally I have a member of the order Mantodea! There are only two North American families: Mantidae, which contains the majority of the species, and Mantoididae with one species, Mantoidea maya - a small mantid (15-17mm long) with a square-like pronotum; it is only found in southern Florida in the United States. Needless to say, this specimen, found in California and exceeding 40mm, is a member of Mantidae. Also, there are only 16 species within Mantidae, in North America, so identification to the species level was rather simple. Based on its size, color, location, the time of year, and the distinct black and white circular marking on the inside of its frontal femur, it is Mantis religiosa. I also suspect it is a male because it seemed to be carrying a spermatophore, a protein/carbohydrate rich gift that some crickets, katydids, mantids, and other insects present to a female as a nuptial gift. Unfortunately for male mantids, females do not stop at the spermatophore...

Mantodea; Mantidae; Mantinae; Melieae; Mantis religiosa
Common Name: European Mantis (male)

Mantids are large, elongate, rather slow-moving insects that have distinct, modified front legs. Their fore femurs are raptorial, modified so as to facilitate hunting. The head is very mobile, and they prey on any insects they can catch. The larger species have even been known to stake out hummingbird feeders to catch the small birds when they come to feed. Mantids overwinter in the egg stage and the eggs are deposited in an egg case on twigs or grass stems; it may contain over 200 eggs. If confined, the nymphs will consume one another unless there is ample food. The female also consumes the male after or during mating. Mantids have been used as biological pest control, but it is not recommended because mantids do not discriminate between useful and harmful insects. They have also been known to stake out beehives and consume bees going to and from the hive.

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