© Allison Martin, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
The near threatened mantids (Family Mantidae) are a very diverse group of insects - there are over 1800 species! The most recognizable member of this family is the praying mantis, which gets its name from its typical “prayer like” stance. Mantid females are believed to bite the heads off their own mates; however these instances may be due to hunger rather than aggression.
The greatest threats affecting mantids, like many insects, are human-related and include habitat loss, pesticide ingestion, pollution, and competition from non-native (invasive or introduced) species. Although mantids are often feared, these insects are actually a very important part of the ecosystem and help protect crops from aphids, whiteflies and mites.
The AZA Terrestrial Invertebrate Taxon Advisory Group and AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums often include mantids in their Program Animal Presentations to increase public awareness about the beneficial roles these insects play in maintaining equilibrium in the ecosystem and the threats currently challenging them and other terrestrial invertebrates such as the American Burying Beetle. To raise awareness and increase the public appeal of insects, several AZA-accredited zoos have started “Bug Clubs." These clubs help spread positive messages about these amazing insects.
||Their size varies, but they are generally between 2 and 6 inches long.
||Mantids are green-brown, with a white body and leathery forewings.
||They live in open or wooded areas near leafy vegetation and flowering plants. Most species live in tropical and subtropical regions.
||Mantids eat other insects, spiders, and sometimes even members of their own species!
||In North America, the females lay eggs in protective casing. In the winter all mantids, both male and female, die off.