The European mantid is one of the most common of the over 1,500 mantid species worldwide. It originated in southern Europe, but has spread to North America, sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Australia. It was accidentally introduced to the United States in 1899 on a shipment of nursery plants from southern Europe. At the time, it was welcomed as a predator of gypsy moth caterpillars, but its populations were generally too small to affect the moth populations. It has since spread across the United States from the east coast to the Pacific northwest.
European mantids are green or tan and can be distinguished from other species by the characteristic “bull’s eye” under their fore legs. The scientific name refers to their posture of standing with folded fore legs, which resembles a praying posture. Thus, they are also called the “praying mantis.” “Preying mantis” would be equally appropriate: they are ambush hunters, preying on caterpillars, flies, butterflies, bees, moths... and even each other.
Perhaps best known for their mating cannibalism, female European mantids do indeed occasionally devour males while mating. The male may even mate more vigorously after being decapitated, but instances are rare and usually only occur when the female is starved. Whether the male survives the encounter or not, the female lays 50-100 eggs in a flat mass attached to twigs or buildings, which overwinter and hatch in the spring. Nymphs often eat their siblings upon hatching; survivors are understandably solitary.September 27, 2012