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Mantises matingMantises mating Mantises are a large group of camouflaged, predatory insects. They are commonly called praying mantises, but only one out of more than 2400 different species is called that. Mantises have triangular heads, large eyes and strong, spiny legs for grabbing prey. They stay completely still, waiting to ambush passing insects. If threatened themselves, they may flutter away or spread their wings and strike out with their front legs. Mantises have good eyesight: at close range, they have precise 3D vision. Their eyes are widely spaced, giving them a wide field of vision. Mantises' heads can swivel about so that they can watch anything moving around them. Their antennae, the two long, thin projections on their head, are used for touch and taste.

European praying mantisEuropean praying mantis

Pink orchid mantisPink orchid mantis


Each kind of mantis has different markings or colours, providing it with camouflage in its natural surroundings. In forests and woodland, the mantises are often green so that they can hide amongst the leaves. Some take on the colour of flowers, while others are brown like dead leaves so that they cannot easily be seen on the forest floor. Legs and wings also come in different shapes and sizes: they may mimic petals, leaves or even twigs. The dead leaf mantis may even move like a leaf swaying in the wind as it stalks its prey.

Mantises can turn their heads up to 180° when searching for prey. They are the only insects that can do this.

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