Praying Mantis

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The insect shown here is a native insect called a praying mantis. Its name comes from the way it holds its large front legs, as if praying. There are about 20 species of praying mantis native to the U.S. and more than 2,000 worldwide.

Praying mantises eat a variety of crawling insects such as grasshoppers and crickets. A large praying mantis of the kind shown here may reach a length of about 6 inches. These insects can fly but usually only do so when disturbed.

They are masters of camouflage and will sit in wait on weeds or bushes of similar color as themselves and snatch up unsuspecting insects that come too close.

Praying mantises have strange-looking eyes that afford them "compound" vision. With its small head that can turn almost 300 degrees, it is a pretty scary sight, but it is harmless.

Gardeners usually welcome the sight of a praying mantis in their gardens.

Through the Woods is a weekly nature photo column by Aaron Horrell. Find this column at semissourian.com to order a reprint of the photo. Find more work by him at the Painted Wren Gallery.

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