The Praying mantis is a most interesting and enjoyable beneficial insect to have around the garden and farm. It is the only known insect that can turn its head and look over its shoulder. Mantis lies in wait for their food and when close enough, snap it up with a lightning movement of their strong forelegs. Mantises are generalist predators of arthropods and the majority of mantises are ambush predators that only feed upon live prey within their reach. They either camouflage themselves or remain stationary, waiting for prey to approach, or stalk their prey with slow, stealthy movements. Mantises sometimes eat smaller individuals of their own species, as well as small insects, vertebrates such as lizards, frogs and small birds.
Praying mantis occur on all continents except Antarctica, therefore their natural habitat is very diverse. There are many praying mantis species that occur in trees, bushes, grassland and even rocky or sandy desert environments. They can occur in wet ecosystems or in very dry systems. Their way of life strongly depends on its habitat and the species, but generally, a praying mantis is a sit-and-wait predator. This means it will stay in one place and scan the environment for potential prey. When it spots its prey, some species will actively walk towards it to catch it. They can see in 3-D and their eyes each have a fovea – a concentrated area that allows them to focus and track with acuity.
Some mantis species depend on good camouflage to prevent predators from eating them, while others keep a simpler look. Praying mantises play an important role in the environment and to the ecosystem. The praying mantis plays a very important part in nature’s insect control plan and one should not expect to achieve total pest control with the use of praying mantis alone. Nevertheless, the mantis is the only predator which feeds at night on moths (most moths are active only after darkness) and the only predator fast enough to catch mosquitoes and flies.
They are very important and beneficial to farmers since they feed on pests, hence, controlling the growth of their population and preventing the crop from any harm that they can cause on the crops as well as to the plants at home
By – Dr. Ashish Uniyal
Department of Agriculture
Uttaranchal (P.G.) College Of Bio-Medical Sciences & Hospital