The European Leaf Mantid (Mantis religiosa eichleri) is an insect known as the praying mantis in the Mantidae family. It is related to termites and cockroaches, and is not related to grasshoppers.
The European Leaf Mantid has a triangular head with two large bulging compound eyes and three small simple eyes, with a pair of antennae. It has a flexible neck, and a long thin green or brown body. It has two sets of wings and long thin legs. When it is resting, it often has an upright posture. Its fore-legs (front legs) are often folded, as if it is praying. The fore-legs are raptorial legs, because they have spikes that can grasp its prey. It has two-toed claws.
It grows to about 9 centimetres (3.5 inches) long.
The European Leaf Mantid is found in southern Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and North America. The Mantis religiosaeichlerispecies is found in east, west, and south Africa.
It is an omnivorous ambush predator, feeding only on live prey within its reach. It has slow, rocking movements, and waits for its prey to come close to it. It eats insects, lizards, frogs, and small birds. Its most popular food is the grasshopper.
The female European Leaf Mantid lays 10-400 eggs in a froth. The froth hardens on a plant or leaf. It has three life stages: (1) egg, (2) nymph, and (3) adult. Eggs take 3-4 weeks to hatch, and the nymph stage is about 2 weeks. Its average lifespan as an adult is 6-12 months. This life cycle is called hemimetabolous.
About 90% of female mantids eat their mate after breeding. This is called sexual cannibalism. She bites off her partner’s head. Scientists are not sure of the reason for this behaviour.
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM