Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.
What Is a Praying Mantis?
You are a green grasshopper jumping around, not looking for enemies because you know you blend in and are hard to see. Suddenly, another insect grabs you with long legs, jabbing its pointy leg spikes into your body so it can hold you and chow down. You just became a snack for a praying mantis!
A praying mantis is an insect with long legs that fold up like it is praying. There are more than 1,500 kinds of praying mantises on Earth, and if you live where the winters don't get too cold you might even spot one in your own back yard.
Praying mantises have a head that is shaped like a triangle. They can turn their head in a complete semicircle in both directions, which no other insect can do, letting them see in different directions.
Praying mantises can also see so well because they have many eyes. On the sides of their triangle-shaped head, they have two huge eyes that make them look like space aliens, and those eyes are made up of thousands of little eyes. They also have three smaller eyes in the middle of their head, so it's hard to sneak up on one.
Praying mantises don't have a nose, so they use their two antennae at the top of their head to smell. Like you, they can hear, but unlike you they only have one ear, and it's not on their head. A praying mantis' ear is in the middle of its thorax, which is like having an ear in the middle of your chest. They have great hearing, though, and can hear things you can't, which helps them escape enemies that want to eat them, like bats.
A Master Hunter
Everything about praying mantises makes them excellent hunters. They are usually a shade of brown or green so they blend in and can hide in plain sight.
They sit still and keep their long, spiky front legs in a praying position, which is how they got their name, so they can grab a snack that wanders by in a lightning fast motion. They are so fast at catching dinner that you probably can't even see it happen.
The spikes on their legs help hold their food down, the way you use a fork, while they use their mouth parts to eat it alive.
What Do Praying Mantises Eat?
Praying mantises eat a lot, and are carnivores, which means they eat meat. They chomp down on their victim's neck and eat the head before tearing into the body so it can't make a run for it. Their bite isn't poisonous, but it is strong enough to tear up a meal and eat it with no problem.
Some snacks you find on their menu include crickets, grasshoppers, moths, and flies. Praying mantises will even snack on each other, too.
If a praying mantis is large enough, you will find some unexpected things on their dinner menu, including lizards, frogs, mice and small birds, including hummingbirds.
A praying mantis is an insect with long, spiky front legs that fold up like it's praying, which is how it got its name. It has many eyes with great eyesight, has one ear in its chest for hearing, smells with its two antennae and is an excellent hunter. Praying mantises are carnivores, or meat eaters, and grab their dinner using fast front legs that have spikes so they can hold it down and eat it with strong mouth parts.
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