Common Name:  Praying Mantis,  European Mantid

Scientific Name:  Mantis religiosa


The Praying Mantis (the actual name is mantid but mantis is so widely used that it is accepted as the proper name) is probably the most easily recognized insect due to its unique shape and the long "praying" segmented front legs.  It is one of 11 mantids in North America and 1,800 worldwide.


Potpourri:  Mantids are voracious carnivores.  They feed on diurnal insects including caterpillars, flies, butterflies, bees, and even small frogs, lizards and hummingbirds.  In fact they often feed on each other.  The female mantis frequently eats the male after they mate, and when a brood of mantises hatch in the spring, they eat each other.


The praying mantis was accidentally introduced to North America on nursery stock from southern Europe in 1899.  It was recognized as a beneficial predator almost immediately, particularly against Gypsy Moth Caterpillars. Unfortunately, mantises are so cannibalistic that their positive impact on the problem is negligible.


The name "mantis" means "a diviner" in Greek because it was believed that this insect had supernatural powers.  Among other myths, it is believed that the brown saliva of the mantis can cause blindness in man and that it can kill a horse if eaten.  The names "devil's horse" and "mule killer" reflect these superstitions.

Website Home Page