The charming, voracious praying mantis

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The intriguing praying mantis (Mantis religiosa) charms us with its triangular head, its staring eyes and in particular, its long, thorny front legs folded back upon themselves like a boxer ready to punch.

Immobile in the vegetation, it lies in wait for a caterpillar, cricket or grasshopper to cross its path. We have even seen formidable Chinese mantises (Tenodora sinensis), another species introduced into southern Québec, perch on a feeder and catch a hummingbird. Newly hatched mantises look like miniature adults and their hunting instinct is already well developed.

Originally from Europe and introduced into North America in the nineteenth century, the praying mantis is used regularly by gardeners to control insects considered pests.

Exerpt from my travel journal from a trip to Malaysia in 2004

“On the hill that dominates Kuala Lumpur, a butterfly garden, a peaceful haven in the heart of the city. In this immense net-covered space, it is moving to be brushed by hundreds of fluttering wings. The silent flight of the Lepidoptera is impressive. They soundlessly gather nectar from one flower after another, unrolling their proboscis and sucking in the sweet liquid.

Here and there, scattered feeders offer them cut fruit, and sprinklers ensure a constant humidity. The sun is shining and life is beautiful for these pampered insects. “I lean nonchalantly on the banister, examining the goldfish pond below. Feeling a light pinch on my finger, I see that an elegant praying mantis is shaking my hand. With its long, pincer-shaped feet, it is clearly trying to distance me from its hunting ground.

Hidden in the leaves, well camouflaged in its greenish coat, it patiently awaits its prey. Its protruding eyes miss nothing. Its forelegs, folded back under its body like a pocket knife, stretch out suddenly at the approach of a victim. The victim will be torn to bits while alive by the strong mandibles of this terrible predator.

Happiness has a price in the kingdom of butterflies.”


More from this author by clicking on his photo below.

Jacques Prescott


Jacques Prescott109 Posts

Jacques Prescott est biologiste, professeur associé à la Chaire en éco-conseil de l’Université du Québec à Chicoutimi. Spécialiste de la biodiversité et du développement durable, il est l’auteur de nombreux livres et articles sur la faune et la conservation de la nature. Il nous fait l’honneur de rejoindre notre équipe de collaborateurs et signera chaque mois une chronique intitulée Faune et flore. / Jacques Prescott is a biologist, associate professor with the Chair in Eco-Counselling of the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi. A specialist in biodiversity and sustainable development, he is the author of numerous books and articles about wildlife and nature conservation. He has honoured us by joining our team of contributors and will write a monthly column entitled Wildlife and Habitat.

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