Praying Mantis Life Cycle: 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.

Praying mantises are meat-eating insects that hold their front legs up as if they are praying when they hunt. They may be big as adults, but they don't start out large. This lesson will teach you about the three stages of the praying mantis' life cycle.

The Stages of a Praying Mantis' Life Cycle

Imagine a large, meat-eating insect with big, otherworldly eyes that folds its spiky legs up like its praying. It's really just waiting to grab victims at lightning speed when they are in striking distance. If you were a bug, you would definitely not want to meet up with a praying mantis because they are always hungry and you would be a snack! But they don't start out as big, menacing hunters.

Praying mantises go through a progression called simple metamorphosis, or change in appearance, during their life cycle as they go from egg to nymph to adult. It is called 'simple' because the nymph looks a lot like an adult but is smaller with no wings.

Stage One: The Egg

In the fall, the mother praying mantis will look for the perfect plant stem or twig where she will lay her eggs. Since she won't be around to take care of them, she makes sure they are sheltered in an egg case, which is a protective cover.

Praying Mantis Egg Case
Praying Mantis Egg Case

A praying mantis' egg case starts out foamy, like the froth on top of a soda. It turns hard and brown to protect the eggs and will be where the eggs spend the winter. There can be as many as 400 eggs, depending on the kind of praying mantis. It's like having 400 brothers and sisters with you in one small room!

Stage Two: The Nymph

When the weather warms up, nymphs, which are tiny praying mantises, burst out of the egg case and are hungry and ready to eat! These nymphs look similar to adults, except they have no wings like the adults do.

Praying Mantis Nymphs
Praying Mantis Nymphs

Nymphs aren't picky eaters and look for any insect their size or smaller to munch on, like crickets and flies. If they are hungry enough and there aren't enough buggy snacks to go around, praying mantis nymphs will chow down on each other!

Nymphs continue to grow, but they have to shed their hard outer shell called an exoskeleton because it doesn't grow with them, like when you outgrow your clothes. They have wing sprouts that continue to grow, too, and they may shed their skin as many as ten to 12 times before they are fully grown.

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