The Praying Mantis is a greenish-tan insect that is between 2 to 6 inches long. It has 6 jointed legs, a 3-part body, 2 short antennae, and large eyes. Did you know that the praying mantis can rotate its head in a full circle? This insect also has a long pro-thorax that attaches its head to the middle of its body. It almost looks like a neck! The long front legs of a praying mantis are very strong and have thorny spines on them that help trap its prey.
The praying mantis eats flies, moths, butterflies, and many other live insects. Sometimes the mantises will even eat each other! They catch their prey with their strong front legs, waiting with the legs folded until something passes by. At that point, the mantis strikes, grabbing and pulling in the prey. It can be found in brushy fields, grass, meadows, and gardens throughout North American and Canada.
Mating is very dangerous for the male praying mantis: sometimes the female will eat the male! After successful mating the female lays between 30 to 300 eggs in a large foam-like cluster. The next year, young mantises called nymphs come out of the top of the cluster and begin to eat. If there is not enough food, they will eat each other as well. The young mantis is very much like the adult--it does not start life as a caterpillar. After shedding its skin and growing through several nymph stages, the young is fully grown.