MANTIDS: Did you know?
MANTIDS OF THE SONORAN DESERT
Mantids are commonly called praying mantises because they hold their large front legs together in a manner that reminds people of a praying position.
Image Credit: Scott Sprague, Arizona Game and Fish Department
What do they look like?
All praying mantises have an elongated body and a distinctive triangular shaped head with a pair of large, bulging compound eyes. Unlike other insects, a praying mantis can turn its head from side to side to detect prey. Their enlarged front legs have numerous hooked and sharp spines that are used in capturing prey. Mantids are masters of camouflage, blending in with background colors. In the Southwest, they are often tan, like desert soil, or shades of green like desert vegetation.
What do they eat?
Mantids are ambush predators. They use their binocular and wide field of vision to accurately locate their prey. They strike suddenly, gripping the prey tightly with the spines of their front legs. Mantids usually grab stationary prey, but they can also capture insects in flight, such as flies and butterflies. Once the prey is caught, mantids immediately begin to devour it, starting at the head. They usually feed on insects, including other mantids, and spiders. The larger mantids can capture small frogs, mice, and lizards.
What eats them?
Mantids are prey for spiders, snakes, birds, and bats.
Where do they live?
Mantids are found in tropical and temperate climates throughout the world. There are about 10 native species in the Southwest United States. Although mostly active during the day, some species are active at night.