|Facts and Knowledge:
The praying mantis ambushes its prey and captures it with its spiny forelegs. A mantis feeds on all types of insects, including other mantises. The cannibalistic habits of praying mantises ensure that they remain solitary creatures. Because they feed on one another, mantises are widely spaced within their various habitats.
Habitat: Mantises are found in a variety of habitats – including deserts, meadows, and savannahs – all through the warmer parts of the world, especially in the humid tropical rainforests, where the majority of species occur.
Food and Feeding: Praying mantises do not actively hunt down their prey. Instead, they wait unmoving and virtually invisible on a leaf or stem, ready to seize any passing insect. When potential prey comes within range, the mantis thrusts its pincerlike forelegs forward to grasp the insect. Any chance of escape is minimized by the viselike grip facilitated by the rows of hooked spines along the inner part of the mantis’s front legs. The mantis bites its prey’s head off first. Mantises will prey on almost any insect small enough to be seized.
Breeding: The female praying mantis is widely known for her peculiar habit of biting the head off her partner while they are mating. This cannibalistic act was once believed to be a regular practice. However, it now seems likely that it is much rarer in female mantises in the wild than in captive mantises kept in a cage. After mating, the female lays her eggs in batches enclosed in a tough, spongy envelope called an ootheca. The ootheca is attached to fence posts, twigs, stems, or sometimes buried in the ground.
The females of some species of mantis stand guard over their eggs until the young emerge. They fend off attacks by parasitic wasps which lay their eggs in the eggs of the mantis. The eggs hatch 3 weeks to 6 months after being laid. The young emerge from the eggs through tiny holes in the ootheca. Many species of mantises resemble ants when they are small, but as they go through a series of molts (sheds their skin), they begin to look more like adult mantises.
Defense: Mantises have a number of enemies, particularly birds. In order to discourage them, large mantises will strike out with their spiny forelegs. Other species, not large enough to frighten an enemy in this way, seek to discourage an aggressor by suddenly exposing brightly colored wings, which often have false eye spots to give the impression of a frighteningly aggressive face. Such tactics are only necessary when the mantis has actually been seen. The first line of defense is to avoid detection at all. Most mantises are therefore well camouflaged. Grass dwellers tend to be green, and tree dwellers are often mottled brown.
Related Species: Cockroaches and grasshoppers
Features of the Praying Mantis: The praying mantis hunts by ambush. Well camouflaged, it waits patiently until its prey passes within reach and then shoots out its spine covered forelegs to grasp it in a viselike grip.
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