Connecticut State Insect
European Praying Mantis (common name)
Mantis religiosa (scientific name)
The praying mantis gets its name from the Greek word for "diviner" or "prophet." This is meant to describe its habit of standing on its hind legs with its two forelegs raised as if in prayer. Mantises are very important in agriculture and were introduced into the United States in order to counter agricultural pests. The state of Connecticut adopted the European praying mantis as its official insect in 1977, and they are found in abundance in the state during the summer months.
Adult: Adult praying mantises are typically two to six inches (.8–2.5 cm) in length with a green or brown body that provides them excellent camouflage. There are nearly 2,000 different species of praying mantis of which the biggest are the Archimantis and the Tenodera, which grow up to six inches (2.5 cm) long. The smallest ones, Bolbe pygmaea, are just 2/5th of an inch (1 cm). The head of the praying mantis is triangular in shape with a pair of large compound eyes on the sides. Mantises can see up to a distance of 60 feet (25 m) and can turn their heads a full 180 degrees. They can detect ultrasound frequencies and can suddenly change their flight pattern in response to any threat. Their forelegs have rows of sharp overlapping spines to catch hold of prey.
Larvae: Most small mantises or nymphs resemble small wingless ants before they start looking like adults. They shed several times before reaching adulthood, which takes an entire season.
The praying mantis lives for 10–14 months. Females die during the winter.
Range: North and South America, Africa, southern Europe, Australia, and parts of Asia.
Flight period: Summer. Mantises cannot fly for prolonged periods and they prefer to fly at night.
Conservation status: Least Concern
The praying mantis is a canny predator that lays in wait by putting all of its four hind legs on the ground and remaining in such a position for extended periods. It holds up its sharp forelegs in a "praying" posture when prey comes close and then catches it in its forelegs and bites its neck to paralyze the prey before being eaten. Female mantises will lay up to 400 eggs during the summer months. The eggs are laid in a liquid called ootheca, which later solidifies into a hard shell.
Adults: Beetles, spiders, butterflies, crickets, spiders, grasshoppers, and other mantises are the chief diet. Mantises will not eat insects that are already dead. They have been known to feed on very small nesting birds like humming birds and also lizards, mice, and tree frogs.
Larvae: The first meal of a young praying mantis is often one of its siblings. They also feed on aphids, leafhoppers, and small flies.
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|Author: World Trade Press|