Mantids and Me :)


February 19, 2009
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Creative Commons License photo credit: emills1 
Some of my Babies

 If you couldn’t tell from my previous post “Mantis Madness“, I am wild about mantids! They are quite possibly me very favorite insects, although, it’s hard to say – because I love all insects!

This past Saturday, Valentine’s Day, the Cockrell Butterfly Center put on a great event called Hug-A-Bug. This event celebrates insects that are beneficial to your garden and lots of people showed up to hug a bug of their own and take home ladybugs to release in their gardens.

I just happened to have about six different species of mantids that I wanted everyone to be able to see, since they are definitely considered beneficial. These mantids all came from a good friend of mine named Yen Saw. Yen is a hobbyist here in Houston who raises mantids from all around the world. He has been so generous and donated several of them to us.

Since meeting him, and with his help, I’ve been raising them like crazy. Maybe that’s why I like them so much. But what’s not to like? They are fascinating, unusual, beautiful, charismatic, and so photogenic. If you missed Hug-A-Bug, not to worry, you can see these amazing insects right here. Of course I took pictures of them all!

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Creative Commons License photo credit: emills1

The Devil Flower Mantis is found in Northern Africa and the Middle East. Since they are a desert-dwelling species, they love the heat here, but not the moisture – so we have to keep her very dry.

The name comes from their diabolical look, but they are very shy. These are so beautiful and the detail on their wings is amazing. Flower mantids are very specialized predators. They all have beautiful coloration, which helps them camouflage themselves within certain flowers. They sit on a flower and wait for an unsuspecting pollinator to arrive, and then they grab it! They catch things like bees, flies, butterflies and moths. It’s really amazing to see one of these mantids catch a fly in mid-air!

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Creative Commons License photo credit:
emills1 Asian Flower Mantis

This one is called the Asian Flower mantis and it comes from South and Southeast Asia. They are quite small, but have a very big appetite.

Their colorful wings and triangular eyes help them blend in with flowers. They are very shy and don’t enjoy being handled at all. Right now I’m raising nymphs of this species that are adorable!

My favorite of the flower mantids is the Spiny Flower Mantis from Africa.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: emills1

They are fabulous! They have a very distinctive pattern on their back to deter predators. If that doesn’t work, they flash their brilliant yellow hind-wings. Many insects flash bright colors like red and yellow. In nature, these colors serve as a warning saying, “stay away – I’m dangerous.”

It’s really quite an interesting display and luckily, this mantis did it while I photographing her. She stood there, beating her wings as if she were in flight for several minutes. You can see what it looked like in the photo below! They also have spines covering their body, which make them look even more menacing. No one wants to mess with these little mantids.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: emills1

Mantids are masters of camouflage. They have a lot riding on their ability to blend in with their environment. Not only do they need protection from a wide variety of predators, they must also remain hidden from their unsuspecting prey. If they are discovered, the prey will skedaddle and they’ll be left hungry.

Different mantids exhibit camouflage that tells you what kind of environment they live in. The orchid mantis, for example – I’ll bet you don’t need to scratch your head for too long to figure out where they hide! The Florida bark mantis has extraordinary camouflage as well.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: emills1

You can see for yourself here! It looks like nothing more than an old, lichen-covered piece of bark. It’s amazing to me that an insect this cool is native to the US. I would be so excited to see one of these in my backyard!

This Grass Mantis has got be, hands down, my very favorite! He is a cutie and we want him to stay around forever!

Unfortunately, males do not have as long of a lifespan. This is another native beauty and can be found in Florida and Georgia. We have some similar species here in Texas that are called stick mantids.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: emills1

These mantids not only blend in, they resemble a harmless walking-stick. So a small insect might feel a little too comfortable getting close to this guy – until they are face-to-face with those grasping front legs!

So there you have it, my mantis show!

I hope you will stumble upon some of these amazing creatures while venturing outside. Any time you are out in nature, it’s a good idea to bring your camera. There are so many beautiful things that can catch your eye.

Photographs are a cheap and easy way to personalize your home or office. My walls are covered with photos of bugs – including, of course, lots of praying mantids!

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Creative Commons License photo credit: emills1
How could you not love a face like that?!

Spring is almost here and I’m starting to see lots of bugs – pretty soon they’ll be all over the place. Until next time, happy bug watching!

Erin M
Authored By Erin M Mills

Erin Mills received her undergraduate degree in Entomology from Texas A&M University in 2004, and after a short tour of the pest control industry, joined HMNS as the Cockrell Butterfly Center's Insect Zoo Manager in 2005. Over the years she expanded the butterfly center's live arthropod collection, developed the ever popular "Bugs on Wheels" outreach program, and continued to establish her role as HMNS's insect expert. In October of 2016, she achieved her long time goal of becoming Director of the Cockrell Butterfly Center. She is constantly striving to improve the butterfly center and how it serves and educates the public about the wonderful and amazing world of insects! As a Board Certified Entomologist, Erin has extensive knowledge of insect identification, ecology, plant relationships, husbandry, really any insect-related topic!

2 responses to “Mantids and Me :)”

  1. Alex Harman says:

    As my e-mail address suggests, I share your fascination with mantids; I was wondering if you could help me identify one. A friend just sent me some pictures taken by his sister-in-law in Bolivia, of an insect she thought was a walking stick. It’s actually a mantis, and looks very much like a member of the Empusidae, but I can’t find any information on Neotropical empusids on the web — one article I did find specifically stated that the family’s distribution is limited to “Africa, the Mediterranean region and Asia.” May I have an e-mail address to which to forward the pictures?

  2. Erin B says:

    Hi Alex,

    Thanks for reading! You can send a photo for ID to: blogadmin@hmns.org

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