Praying mantids can turn their heads 180 degrees—an entire half circle.
Praying mantids can turn their heads 180 degrees—an entire half circle.
Photograph by Mirage1, Dreamstime

Praying Mantis

These insects get their name because they have very long front legs that they hold in a position that reminds people of praying.

Common Name:
Praying Mantis
Scientific Name:
Mantis religiosa
Type:
Invertebrates
Diet:
Carnivore
Average Life Span In The Wild:
1 years
Size:
0.5 to 6 inches long

There are about 1,800 species of praying mantids around the world. People often refer to any mantid as a praying mantis, but mantises are part of a smaller group within the mantids. Praying mantids are carnivores, eating mainly insects and other small animals. Many gardeners and farmers welcome mantids, because the insects they eat are often pests that hurt crops. In addition to insects such as crickets and grasshoppers, mantids eat spiders, frogs, lizards, and even small birds.

Praying mantids have long necks topped by a triangular head. They can turn their heads 180 degrees—an entire half circle. They're well-camouflaged, adapting colors that help them blend with plants. Some also have amazing body shapes that make them look like leaves or branches. Their front legs have rows of sharp spines to help them hold on to their prey, which they usually begin to eat head first!