More than 1,800 species of insect belong to the praying mantid family. Among these is a smaller group known as the "Praying Mantis." Often, all mantid variations are commonly referred to by the praying mantis name, while in reality the name only refers to a small group of insects. Despite the naming difference, praying mantids of all types share similar characteristics and behaviors.
Praying mantids are named so due to their prominent front legs that resemble a person in prayer. In addition to these unique legs, all praying mantids feature long necks and triangular heads capable of turning 180 degrees. Typically green or brown, the insect is well camouflaged when hunting. Depending on the age and species, praying mantids vary in length from 1/2 to 6 inches. Some species of praying mantid feature wings.
All praying mantids are carnivores. This means that they mainly eat other insects, typically grasshoppers, flies moths and crickets. Some larger species of mantid are capable of eating lizards, frogs and small birds. Praying mantids are often popular with gardeners and farmers, as their carnivorous nature causes them to eat pest insects.
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The mating process of praying mantids exhibits the extremely carnivorous nature of the insect. Often, either during or directly after mating, the female praying mantid eats the male. Once mating is complete, the female will lay hundreds of eggs in frothy substance that turns into a hard case. After fully developing, these eggs hatch into "nymphs" which closely resemble adult mantids.
During the hunting process, the praying mantids ability to grasp with its front legs is often too fast fore the human eye. Despite the carnivorous nature of mantids, bats, frogs, birds and rodents are among the insect's natural enemies. The praying mantid is a close relative of the cockroach.