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Insect identification > Orthoptera > Mantids
Family Mantidae (the mantids). - The mantids are usually quite large insects, with bodies much longer than wide and a broad head which moves very freely upon the thorax.
The prothorax, with few exceptions, is very long and bears legs adapted for grasping the prey which are well provided with spines, the insects walking on the other four.
In nearly all members of the group the wings are well developed, the hinder pair larger and folding in plaits when at rest with the other pair on the back of the abdomen. They are often called rearhorses, devil-horses, soothsayers, praying mantids or mule killers.
The mantids are carnivorous, feeding on flies and other insects, and are therefore beneficial. Fifteen to twenty kinds occur in the United States, particularly in the South, but the group is mainly found in tropical countries where it reaches its greatest development and includes some remarkable forms.
Mantid eggs are laid in cases composed of a thick material which quickly dries. They are usually laid in the fall and hatch the following spring. Some of the cases are very noticeable, being an inch or more long. They are usually attached to plant stems.
The common Carolina mantis (Stagomantis carolina L.) is found as far north as southern New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. It is about two and one-half inches long when adult, green or brown, or a mixture of the two colors, and is found not only on plants but also often on houses, sheds or other places where it may obtain its prey. It locates in some spot, then raising its prothorax and head somewhat, with its forelegs partly extended, quietly waits until an unwary insect comes within its reach. When this happens, a quick motion of its forelegs and the prey is seized, the spines aiding in holding the insect, which is then fed upon.
In 1897 a mantid from China (Tenodera sinensis Sauss.) was discovered near Philadelphia where it successfully established itself and it is now found in many parts of this country. It is much larger than the common native mantis, being about four inches long.
In 1899 the common European mantis (Mantis religiosa L.) was found near Rochester, N.Y., where it appears to be quite common. It much resembles our native form but is slightly larger.
As these insects are beneficial, attempts have been made to establish them in other places, but thus far they do not seem able to withstand severe winters, and in the case of the last-named species it has until now apparently been unable to live north of Ontario, and colonies placed in New England have died out.