Praying Mantis Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Diane Sieverson

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.

The praying mantis is a kind of insect that is very good at catching its dinner. Come learn about the praying mantis, what it eats, how it hunts, how it got its name and some other neat facts about this insect.

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!

Praying Mantis with Folded Legs
Praying Mantis with Folded Legs

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 Mantis Head with Big Eyes
Praying Mantis Head with Big Eyes

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.

Praying Mantis Eating an Insect
Praying Mantis Eating an Insect

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