Answers to Kids' Questions About Praying Mantises
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8
The following questions were answered by zoo biologist Ellen Dierenfeld and entomologists John VanDyk and Steve Kutcher.
Q: Is it against the law to kill a praying mantis in Ohio? What about a walking stick?
A: As far as I know, it is not illegal to kill praying mantises or walking sticks. They are not listed on the endangered species list. However, a state or local ordinance may make the killing of mantises and walking sticks illegal in your area. Even if it's not illegal, it is a very bad idea to kill mantises since the praying mantis is a beneficial insect. They are used by many gardeners and greenhouse owners because they eat harmful insects.
Q: Why does the female praying mantis eat the male?
A: Most entomologists think it's because that way she gets a big boost of nutrition so she has enough energy to produce her eggs. A small minority, of course, think she's just plain mean!
Q: How does the praying mantis use the front part of its body to get bugs? Does it have pointy teeth in this part or sharp hairs?
A: The praying mantis uses its front legs to grab its prey in a lightning-fast pounce. Sharp, pointy spikes (made of chitin) hold the prey still until the mantis can begin to munch. I'm glad that mantises are so much smaller than us or I'd be scared to go outside!
Q: Why do praying mantises only feed on bugs that have already died?
A: I'm afraid that this is not true. The praying mantis is very good at capturing live insects and will eat them right there, while they are still alive!