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The Praying Mantis is named for the fact that its large front legs hold up its body when resting in a position that resembles prayer. It can be a startling sight for those unfamiliar with the huge insect. Ranging from two to five inches in length, a fully mature mantid may be as long as a small bird. Most mantids are bright green or brown in coloration. A few may look pink. Mantids, however, are harmless to humans and are consumers of many insects considered harmful to plants and crops. Mantids are the only insects that are able to turn from side to side in a 180 degree angle. The Praying Mantis has a uniquely adapted hollow chamber inside its body that is thought to enable the detection of bat echolocation. The bat is one of the mantid’s chief predators.
The Praying Mantis is a voracious predator that eats flies, crickets, grasshoppers, and occasionally, other mantids. Very rarely, a large mantid will kill a small bird such as a hummingbird. The Praying Mantis uses its powerful jaws to bite its prey in the neck.
The Praying Mantis is most commonly seen in September or October when females are searching for males to mate with. After mating, the female mantis sometimes bites the head off the male. She will occasionally eat him. The female then lays a mass of up to 400 eggs in a sticky substance (known as an ootheca) attached to a tree, branch or twigs. After laying her eggs, the female soon dies. The eggs will hatch in spring. The nymphs look like very small adults and take until the following summer to develop fully. They will molt (shed exoskeletons) six or seven times.