The praying mantis is an insect that belongs to the Mantodea order. It lives in temperate and tropical climates. The praying mantis has a long, green or brown body. It has two protruding compound eyes and three smaller ones [5 eyes] on its triangular head. The male praying mantis can measure up to 6 cm long, while females can be 8 cm long. The insect has two pairs of wings. The males can fly only short distances, however, while the females cannot fly at all. The praying mantis has 6 legs like all insects, but only walks on four. The two scythe-like front legs are used to catch prey. The praying mantis is a predatory insect. It has exceptional vision, allowing the insect to see up to 20 m away. This ability helps the praying mantis apply its favorite hunting tactic, the ambush. The insect hides in foliage and observes its surroundings. When it spots potential prey, the praying mantis waits for the target to come close. Then it springs toward its victim and seizes it in a vice-like grip with its front legs. It is incredibly quick, and can complete this attack in just 1/20th of a second. The praying mantis devours its catch live, eating all kinds of insects, including other praying mantises.
When it’s not hunting, the praying mantis keeps its front legs folded together. In this position, it resembles a person with hands clasped in prayer. Mating season occurs in late summer. After or even during sexual intercourse, the female often eats the male, consuming his head first. Even headless, the male body survives long enough to complete the mating process. For the female praying mantis, eating the male is the easiest way to procure the large amount of protein she’ll need for her eggs. The female later lays the eggs in two or three cocoon-like cases called oothecas. Each ootheca holds up to 200 eggs. The eggs hatch in spring. A newly-hatched praying mantis begins hunting immediately, and reaches adulthood by late August. Some species belong to the Mantis genus, which means prophet in Greek. [mantis = prophet] In ancient times, a praying mantis sighting was considered a bad omen. In some cultures, the female’s habit of eating its partner made the word “mantis” synonymous with a woman with no scruples. The hunting tactic of the praying mantis was used as a model for a style of fast-moving kung fu.