Is a Praying Mantis Truly Praying?

Quck answer

No, a praying mantis does not actually pray. The name “praying mantis” comes from the way these insects hold their front legs, which resemble a praying position. However, this is just a coincidence and has no religious or spiritual significance. The praying mantis uses its front legs to catch and hold its prey while hunting. It is a fascinating insect known for its unique appearance and hunting techniques, but it does not have any religious or spiritual practices associated with it.


What do you get if you combine a praying mantis with a termite? An insect that says grace before it consumes your house! OK… so that’s an old joke, but we still enjoy it!

The praying mantis doesn’t say grace, and it doesn’t actually pray. So how did it acquire its unique name?

If you’ve ever seen a picture of a praying mantis (or a live one up close), you probably noticed its front legs, which are bent and held at an angle that gives the impression that the insect is praying. This peculiar posture is what bestowed these insects with their distinctive name.

Mantises belong to the scientific order Mantodea, which encompasses over 2,200 species in 15 different scientific families. Most of these species are in the scientific family Mantidae, so you’ll sometimes hear these insects referred to as praying mantids. However, it’s perfectly acceptable to also call them all mantises.

In Europe, the term “praying mantis” pertains to one specific species: Mantis religiosa. This insect arrived in the United States in 1899 in a shipment of plants.

It can now be found all over the country. Despite not being native to the United States, it holds the title of the official state insect of Connecticut!

Sometimes people misspell “praying mantis” as “preying mantis.” “Preying” mantis might actually be more fitting, though, since the praying mantis can be a fierce predator.

Praying mantises are carnivorous insects. That means they feed on other insects — and sometimes even small reptiles or birds — rather than plants.

Their triangular heads feature five eyes — two large compound eyes with three simple eyes in between — and can rotate 180 degrees to search for prey. They utilize their brown or green coloring to blend in with plants, patiently waiting for moths, crickets, flies, grasshoppers, and other insects to approach.

Once an insect gets close enough, they use their front legs to capture their prey. They move so quickly that it can be hard to see with the naked eye. Their legs also possess small spikes that aid in securing their prey.

However, other insects are not the only targets for praying mantises. Praying mantises are also renowned for their infamous mating behavior. Adult female praying mantises often consume their mates (adult male praying mantises) after — or sometimes during — mating!

Although praying mantises resemble stick-like insects or grasshoppers or crickets, their closest relatives are actually termites and cockroaches. So perhaps that old joke wasn’t completely off the mark!

Give It a Try

You don’t have to go away to have fun at Camp What-A-Wonder. This is the type of camp that you take with you wherever you go! So step outside and let’s search for creepy crawling critters!

Do you have any praying mantises in your yard? What about at your local park? Wherever you reside, you’re bound to find some intriguing insects nearby.

For some amusement, grab a friend and venture outside for a lawn safari! Use a magnifying glass to get a close-up view of insects around your house.

Once you have a better understanding of the insects that inhabit your area, create an insect feeding station to demonstrate that you’re glad to have them as neighbors!

Want more of Camp What-A-Wonder? Come join us on Twitter tonight!

Keep the camp experience going tonight, June 30, on Twitter from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. EDT (hashtag #WonderChat). Come together around our virtual campfire and gain knowledge about fascinating insects from Professor Bug!

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