Praying mantids are 6 to 7.5cm long and usually green and have very long front legs. They have extremely strong mandibles and have been known to bite humans. When they are full grown they have wings.
Praying Mantid (left), Praying mantid in Texas-Texas A&M (right)
These are beneficial insects we need to help keep our gardens pest free. They are one of the most interesting insects to watch. Get close to one and you will see their head twist and stare at you. Watching them catch an insect is most fascinating. They sit motionless until some unsuspecting insect crosses their path. Bang they’re done for!
Praying Mantid with bug-photo Edward S. Ross
They are found worldwide and there are many different species. Females lay their eggs in clumps with a frothy white coating that turns into a brown hard case. They overwinter as eggs attached to bush limbs and tree twigs. They hatch in late spring. By mid summer they are full grown and eating their weight in gold! Increasing bushes or hedges near your garden is a good way to keep them there. They mate in late summer and usually it is the female who survives this test as she will try and most of the time succeed to kill the male. One thing is that ants will eat the eggs and the babies are a good diet for some birds and snakes. If you see these eggs then get EXCITED!
Praying Mantid eggs-photo University of Kentucky
Praying Mantis Egg Sac (photo by Cahri)
Paraying mantids will eat almost any insect in your garden and this also includes other beneficials (except ladybugs). They have a voracious appetite and they have been reported eating small frogs, snakes and lizards when they run out of other insects to eat. Their preferred diet is mostly insects, eggs and mites.