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Mantis religiosa is a mantis species native to temperate areas of Europe, Asia and northern Africa, but has spread around the world and is now well established across the United States and into Canada. Outside of Europe it is known as the European mantis; in Europe, it is known simply as the preying mantis. It was introduced to the eastern US in 1899. In 1977 it officially became the state insect of Connecticut. The European mantis is 5-7.5 cm long, usually a shade of green with brown, usually well camouflaged in its surroundings, and also difficult to see because of its usually motionless stance. There are several other similarly large mantis species also commonly found in the United States: the Mediterranean mantis (Isis oragoria), the Chinese mantis (Tenodera aridigolia, and the native Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis carolina). The European mantis can be distinguished from these by a distinctive black bulls-eye pattern on its coxae (most proximal segment) of the fore leg.

Although a carnivore and an impressive predator, this mantis is completely harmless to humans and a beneficial species in that it eats many harmful insects, including the gypsy moth caterpillar, many aphids, flies, mites, grasshoppers and, when an individual comes upon another mantis, will show cannibalistic behavior. Thus, European mantises are solitary insects, coming together to mate only once a year. Females are known to eat the males after mating.

Females lay about 100 eggs in a white hardened foam ootheca (egg case) which they cement to a tree branch or leaf. The juveniles, miniature versions of adults, hatch in early spring, and are wind dispersed, or serve as nourishment for their siblings.

(Bartelt 2011; 2002; WSU 2011; Wikipedia 2011)


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