Department of Environmental Conservation

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Watchable Wildlife: Praying and Chinese Mantises

Did You Know?

  • Praying mantis on a pink sedum flower
    Praying mantis - Mantis religiosa
    Photo: Susan L. Shafer
    They are fearsome predators, eating insects, spiders, frogs, lizards, and even small birds!
  • The female will typically bite off the male's head during or after mating.
  • They are the only insects that can turn their heads 180 degrees, which helps them spot prey. Their excellent eyesight allows them to detect movement up to 60 feet away.
  • Because they blend in well within their environment, resembling a leaf or a stem, they can sit and wait to ambush their prey. They strike at a remarkable speed of about one-twentieth of a second.
  • The Praying Mantis and Chinese Mantis were introduced to North America in the late 1800s to help rid crops and gardens of pests.
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What to Watch for:


3 to 4 inches in length


Chinese mantis on green leaves
Chinese mantis -Tenodera sinensis
(Photo: Ronald Gizzi II)

Mantises are well camouflaged, and can change colors after molting to help them blend in with the plants they live near. Typically they are green or brown. As adults they have wings and spiny front legs that are used for grasping prey. Their egg cases are straw-colored. They look like a piece of shredded wheat breakfast cereal about the size of a child's thumb. The egg cases overwinter, and in the spring a nymph hatches that resembles a small adult lacking wings.

Where to Watch:

Look carefully at plant stems or leaves on tall plants, flowers, shrubs, or grasses in meadows or gardens. One must have a keen eye to spot this well camouflaged creature. Egg cases can be spotted throughout the winter by looking closely at plant stems or the underside of leaves that remain on trees and shrubs. They can also be found attached to stems of tall grasses and weeds, especially in overgrown fields.

When to Watch:

The best time is during the spring and summer in the daytime.

The Best Places to See a Praying Mantis: