praying mantis facts

Praying Mantis Facts

The mantis is an insect best known for its prayer-like posture. Sometimes confused with its close relative, the grasshopper, the mantis is a very interesting insect. Below we look at some of the features that make it so unique among the millions of insect species in the world.

Anatomy

  • Not all mantises are winged. Depending on the nature and presence of their wings, mantises can be classified into apterous (wingless), micropterous (with vestigial wings), brachypterous (short winged) and macropterous (long winged).
  • Other than flying, wings in mantises are also used to scare away predators and in makes, to attract females.
  • Their two forelegs legs have spines by which prey is caught and securely held.
  • The prothorax, the part of the body containing the head and forelegs, is highly flexible which allows the insect to move its forelegs and head in a wide range of movements while the rest of the body remains immobile.
  • The neck is extremely flexible and in some species, the neck has been observed to rotate through an angle of up to 180 degrees.
  • Praying mantises can see up to a distance of 20 meters. Their compound eyes are widely spaced and found at the sides of their faces so as to allow for a wide range of vision.
  • Since bats are one of their biggest predators, mantises are equipped with an auditory thoracic organ. This organ detects the high pitched sound bats produce for echolocation and immediately respond evasively.

Behavior (Feeding & Defense)

  • Most mantises tend to feed during the day (diurnal) as this is when they can take advantage of their vision. However, they can also fly at night and will be attracted to any artificial lights nearby.
  • The primary prey of a mantis is insects and so they make up a large part of its diet. When young, a mantis feeds on small insects and sometimes can also eat its own siblings. As it grows bigger, it needs larger insects to survive. In full adulthood the diet may vary and can consists of small snakes, rodents, birds, lizards and scorpions.
  • Most mantises hunt by ambush. They can stand still at a spot, well camouflaged, for a long period of time awaiting prey. Other species tend to pursue their prey.
  • When caught, prey is held in the spiked legs of the mantis. The prey is usually eaten live if it does not resist but if it does, then the mantis will eat off the head first.
  • After finishing a meal, the only remnants left behind are those that were accidentally dropped. Otherwise, a mantis is capable of eating everything.
  • The major form of defense in mantises is hiding and camouflage. They also threaten their predators by standing tall and spreading their forelegs with their wings fanned out. This makes the mantis appear larger and more intimidating.
  • Mantises are capable of producing sound especially when threatened. The hissing sound is used to scare away enemies.
  • As for camouflage, they will develop wing colors to blend in perfectly with the vegetation in the region of their habitat. Some species have become so good at camouflage that they can even mimic vegetation by turning into shapes and colors that resemble withered leaves or dry barks.
  • If you get bitten or slashed by a mantis, do not worry, it contains no venom at all.

Reproduction & Life Cycle

  • Many mantis species display what is referred to as sexual cannibalism. This is where the female eats the male after mating. The feeding usually begins by biting off the head of the male. Due to this phenomena, it has been observed that hungry females are approached by less male mantises as compared to satiated ones due to fear of being cannibalized.
  • The female lays between ten and four hundred eggs which come out in a frothy mass which then hardens to form a protective capsule around the eggs.
  • Like most insects, the lifecycle of a mantis consists of egg, nymph then adult. The major difference between a nymph and an adult is the lack of wings and functional genitalia.
  • The general lifespan of a mantis is between 10 to 12 months.

Interestingly enough, mantises can be used to control pests. In some parts of the world, there are thriving businesses that sell mantis eggs. These eggs hatch into nymphs which tend to have a huge appetite. Thus, they will eat any and all insects they can find including those that are harmful to plant growth.

Trimerotropis

9 Cool Facts About Insects

Just about everyone encounters some form of insect on a daily basis – it’s inescapable. Despite their prevalence and ubiquity, they may go basically unnoticed by most people. Here are some interesting insect facts to consider next time you see an insect creeping about.

  1. There are between 6-10 million different species of insects in the world. While the actual number of individual insects in the world is thought to be at least in the quadrillions or higher, there is an extreme amount of diversity with 6-10 million species in the class of Insecta, which is the scientific name for insects.
  2. The above number is speculative, because scientists have only actually cataloged 1.5 total species of living creatures on the earth. 2/3rds of known living species, or 1 million known & cataloged species of living creatures, belong to the ever-present insects.
  3. Thought to be the most numerous of insects, there are estimated to be more than 10 quadrillion ants on Earth. This means there’s at least a million ants on Earth, and due to their strength, we could technically each be carried around by our own collection of ants if that were a thing.
  4. As far as biodiversity is concerned, the most broad and successful living creatures are the beetles. The beetles, of the order Coleoptera, consists of more than 400,000 different species.
  5. Insects have been around for about 400,000 years. This means they were around long before and long after the dinosaurs. This is likely due to their adaptability, quick life cycle, and the breadth of their range.
  6. Speaking of range, insects are one of the few living creatures that are found on every continent. Even Antarctica has the tiny Belgica antarctica. Perhaps ironically, there are no ants on Antarctica.
  7. There are no ocean-dwelling insects. As widespread and successful as insects are, you will be hard-pressed to find any if you’re out at sea.
  8. Insects breath through their exoskeleton. Insects exchange oxygen through structures called spiracles on their exoskeletons. From their, oxygen is transported throughout the insects body through the trachea system.
  9. Insects don’t have veins, arteries, capillaries or any such structure. Their organs soak in a bath of blood within their body, and as mentioned, the trachea system ensures a fresh supply of oxygen to that blood.

There you have 9 basic but interesting facts about insects. Perhaps next time you see one, you will admire its success and beauty, rather than being creeped out.

10 Cool Termite Facts

Termites have been around for millions of years. What do we know about them? Most people think that they are a pest and nothing else. That couldn’t be further from the truth: we should be thankful that termites exist. Let’s take a look at 10 interesting facts about termites:

termite-facts1.) Termites are ecologically beneficial

They can be pests to some homeowners, but the environment is better off because of what termites do. They are decomposers: they recycle decaying and dead trees into soil by breading down plant fibers. Forests need these insects. Termites improve and aerate the soil too.

2.) Respect your elders

Termites are much older than the human race. They descend from an ancestor that’s similar to the modern cockroach. Mantids, cockroaches, and termites all share this ancestor that lived over 300 million years ago. Termites hold the record for the oldest mutualism between two organisms known to man. Today, there are over 2,700 species of termites in the world. There are about 40 species in the United States.

3.) Termites digest wood with the help of microorganisms

Termites need help to digest tough cellulose, or plant fibers. They eat plants directly or fungus that grows on plant material. Their gut is full of microorganisms that break down the cellulose. Both organisms benefit from this relationship.

4.) The old raise the young

There are no deadbeat dads here. Termite kings won’t leave their offspring. They’re not like males bees; male bees die after mating. The termite king will stay with the queen after he’s fertilized her eggs. He helps to feed the young, too, by giving them predigested food.

5.) They eat each other’s feces

They do this because they are not born with those beneficial microorganisms inside them. They need them before they can begin to munch away on food.

6.) Most of them are blind

Termite soldiers and workers are usually blind because they don’t need to be able to see in order to perform their duties. They live in the dark, where their eyesight would be useless. The only termites with eyesight are reproductive termites, they need it in order fly and find their mates.

7.) They have a sophisticated communication system

If there’s a threat, termite soldiers will bang the walls of the galleries with their heads in order to warn the other termites.

8.) Chemical communication is important too

They use pheromones (chemical scents) to provide information to one another. They can guide other workers by leaving scent trails using the glands that they possess. Each colony has its own unique scent.

9.) Good hygiene is very important

Most people would be surprised at how much time termites spend grooming themselves and each other. They do it because it is important for their survival; if they didn’t put any effort into staying clean, they’d get in trouble with harmful bacteria and parasites.

10.) Some of them can fly

Queens and kings can fly. They are called alates, and use their wings to leave their colony, look for a potential mate and start their own colony. Once they’ve found a new home, they break off their wings and raise their offspring.

Despite that fact that a lot of people find them to be pests, and spend a lot of time and effort trying to kill termites, and get rid of termites, they are truly fascinating little creatures.

giant-dobsonfly

What Are The 5 Largest Insects In The World?

Insects represent over 80% of all the species alive on Earth right now. In fact, around about a million different species have been identified by scientists. While, in average, they measure from 3 to 20 millimeters, certain species far exceed that number. The following is a list of 5 of the largest insects found around the world.

Giant Dobsonfly

giant-dobsonfly

Credit: Insect Museum of West China

The most recent discovery on this list, the Giant Dobsonfly looks like a Dragonfly with snake-like fangs. It’s found in West China and it’s considered to be one of the largest insect ever to be found alive. It has a wingspan of 8.3 inches or 21.1 centimeters (that’s significantly bigger than your 15 centimeter ruler!), and, quoting CNN, “is capable of covering a human face.” As big as it gets though, an adult Dobsonfly does not eat and only lives for a few days for the sole purpose of mating before simply dying.

Sadly, the Dobsonfly is being driven away by increasing pollution as they rely on clean fresh water. Even a slight change in pH or the presence of contaminants can force the insect to search for fresher water elsewhere.

Titan Beetle

The Titan Beetle or Titanus giganteus is the largest beetle in the world. It can go up to 16.7 centimeters in length. The most striking feature of the Titan are its jaws which are powerful enough to easily break a pencil in two. It can also tear into human flesh with its sharp spines. The Titan hisses when threatened and can even fly which leads to people mistaking it for a giant cockroach. Having said all that, it’s utterly harmless to humans.

It’s found in the Amazon rainforest, Columbia, Guiana and north Brazil. As you can infer, It prefers to stay in hot tropical conditions where the grubs (the Titan larvae) feed on dead wood under the ground. The adults are only active during the hottest, most humid weeks of the year when they search for a mate.

Because of the the fact that they rely on dead wood to thrive, their very existence is being threatened due to the constant deforestation of the Amazons.

Chan’s Megastick (Phobaeticus chani)

chans-megastick-giant-walking-stick-bug

Chan’s Megastick (Phobaeticus chani)

The longest insect in the list (and the world!), the Giant stick insect is a master of camouflage. They have evolved this bizzare but genius shape to blend in with twigs and foliage and hide from predators. Even the texture of their exoskeleton closely resemble tree bark. They cannot fly or jump, so when disturbed, they fall to the ground and remain still. Giant Walking Stick’s can reach 20 inches or 50 centimeters in length (with legs outstretched), making it about as long as the keyboard I’m typing on.

This particular species is found only in the rain forests of Borneo, however stick bugs are found all over the world.

Little Barrier Island Giant Weta

little-barrier-island-giant-weta

Little Barrier Island Giant Weta

Only found in Little Barrier Island of New Zealand, the species of cricket is so heavy it can’t even jump. The largest of them can weigh more than 70 grams. To put that number into perspective, a sparrow weights less.

They feed on other insects, fruits and leaves and they don’t have too many natural predators. That and the complete isolation led its numbers getting to endemic levels and its large size. This is an example of island gigantism.

Atlas Moth

atlas moth

Atlas Moth

As you can probably guess from the name, the Atlas Moth is an absolutely huge insect. In fact, it’s the only moth in the world with a surface are of 62 square inches and a wingspan of 12 inches. Amazingly, in Taiwan, the cocoons of the moths can be used to turn into useful products such as purses. The brown silk that makes the cocoon is that strong!

Interestingly, the tips of their wings look like snake heads. Unlike typical moths, the Atlas Moth has no mouth. This is because they don’t need to feed once they emerge from their cocoons. They rely on stores of fat they gathered during their previous stages of life. But, of course, this means that they don’t live long. The males survive for a week or two to mate with a female, after which they die.