Odd Habits Of The Praying Mantis

Odd Habits of the Praying Mantis doodlewash and watercolor sketch on white background with shadow nymph

Wandering along on our #NatureDoodlewash hike, I’ve stumbled across this little praying mantis. These are odd little creatures that are often hard to spot as their body shape and colors make them blend in with the plants or tree bark around them. Though their big bug eyes provide them with binocular vision, they apparently only have one ear, so they can’t discriminate the direction or frequency of sound. Also, this ear is weirdly located on their belly just in front of their back legs. This makes me think how bizarre it would be if that were the case for humans. At best, one would certainly not want to be caught whispering in public.

The weirdest thing about the praying mantis is its penchant for cannibalistic sex. The female will sometimes eat the head of the male while they are copulating and sometimes, more horrifyingly, even before they begin. But it turns out the male is actually a better lover without a brain to control his inhibitions and as a bonus his body provides nourishment for monster mom. While fairly common in artificial laboratory settings, it’s estimated that the ladies only eat their dates about 30% of the time in a natural setting. Still not super great odds if one is a mantis bachelor.

Of course, the name comes from their front legs that they hold upright as if in prayer. For all bees and other small insects reading this, please don’t be fooled by this angelic pose. This is simply the stance they take while waiting for prey so they can lash out with lightening speed and grab some dinner. Larger versions of this rather deadly predator can eat frogs, lizards and even birds. Wow, these things are starting to make spiders look friendly! There you have it though. The rather odd world of the surprisingly vicious praying mantis.

Join me throughout the month of June on a virtual nature hike! Show everyone what you love most in nature with a watercolor sketch or painting and tag your images #NatureDoodlewash so we can all enjoy it with you! I’ll create a featured artist gallery of our global hike at the end of the month! 

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About the Doodlewash

M. Graham watercolors: Gamboge, Azo Orange, Permanent Green Pale, Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna and Neutral Tint. Lamy Safari Al Star pens with Platinum Carbon sepia and black ink in a 5″ x 8″ 140 lb. (300 gsm) Pentalic Aqua Journal

Profile photo of Charlie O'Shields (doodlewash)
Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!
59 Comments
  1. YesterdayAfter 12 months ago

    Oh wow Charlie you’re having lots of fun with our nature! 😉 I love it! I just posted my doodlewash too here https://yesterdayafter.com/2016/06/13/red-breasted-bird-naturedoodlewash/

    • jadeart4 12 months ago

      Your watercolor is wonderful but your writing is hilarious. Kept me laughing a good while. Mantis bachelors indeed. 🙂

      • Author

        Hehe! Glad you enjoyed this post! 😃💕Nature has some interesting creatures, doesn’t it?! Yikes!

      • YesterdayAfter 12 months ago

        Ahah Jade now you bring me a good laugh! I am glad that you like my watercolor and I am happy that my hilarious story made you laugh I am happy to know thanks! To write an hilarious story, with a twist was my idea I guess did work out right! LOL 😉

    • Author

      Hehe…yeah…nature has so interesting things to share! Thanks, Carolina! 😃💕

  2. Susan Feniak 12 months ago

    ah yes a googly eyed one!! Strange habits for a strange looking critter. All very interesting Charlie and as always very well rendered. 🙂

  3. Catherine Johnson 12 months ago

    Such strange habits lol. Another stunning doodlewash.

  4. Teri C 12 months ago

    What a great looking mantis. Thanks for the info, never knew it was so weird. One thing in their favor, they eat lots of bugs like aphids. You can even buy these guys to control your bad bugs.

    • Author

      Thanks, Teri! 😃💕Yeah, I read they were good for that! Though they also eat bees which can be bad. They’re much more vicious than I realized! Lol

  5. Jodi 12 months ago

    Oh goodness gracious!! Cannibalistic sex! Sheeeeesh! But your doodlewash – absolutely freakin’ amazing! I tried to draw a penguin today and paint it. Looks like a 2 year old – I need to step back and seriously recognize your AMAZING drawing and painting skills Charlie O!!!!! Wowza!

    • Author

      I don’t make up the facts…I just report them! Haha! Glad you liked the doodlewash, Jodi! 😃💕 But I told you never to judge your own work anymore!! Lol I’m sure your penguin was lovely!!

  6. Angie 12 months ago

    I’ve witnessed this lashing out and snatching prey act on a bee. It was quite fascinating and a little disturbing at the same time. I managed to capture it all on camera! I also got a surprise visit from one in the kitchen one time as well. Pretty cool, but he startled me at first.

    • Author

      Yeah, the videos are disturbing and yet fascinating. Wild you captured a video yourself!! I think they’re kind of cool to look at, but they do always startle me too! Hehe

      • Angie 12 months ago

        Yes, they are cool to look at. They’re considered good luck in some cultures if you encounter one. I’m not sure about that, but it’s nice to think so!

  7. Carol 12 months ago

    Oh my gosh, how can you make me laugh through such a horror story? Witty writing and terrific doodlewash, Charlie!

  8. debiriley 12 months ago

    oh my… could have gone forever, not knowing that bit. you have a wicked twist Mr. Charlie!!!! lol

  9. Margaret Parker Brown 12 months ago

    wow…..and I thought they are so cute….no! I knew about the cannibalistic urges but I didn’t have a clue that they will do the killing before mating or why! I am learning so much by your nature walks.

    • Author

      Haha…yeah, the “before” was knew to me as well and more than a little shocking. But very educational hike I’d say! Lol

  10. circadianreflections 12 months ago

    I saw a video on Youtube once several years ago of a Praying Mantis catching and eating a Hummingbird, and that changed my whole outlook on the Praying Mantis. A couple of years ago one was perched on my front doorway way near the light…laying in wait for moths no doubt. I grabbed my camera but made sure to keep out of striking distance. I do not trust them now.

    Do the males eat the young? Is that why the female eats the male head? Or is it strictly for the food source for the young? What a sacrifice! One hopes they have no clue or consciousnesses of what could be coming.

    I uploaded a small nature watercolor a bit ago, and tagged it. Thank you for the inspiration! Your work is amazing, and I’m always in awe of how great your work is even when you say you worked fast and were short on time! It takes me days or hours, and hours. Your painting of the Praying Mantis is so life like! The pose is wonderful.

    • Author

      Thanks so much, Deborah! 😃💕Yeah…leaning more about them makes me wary, but we’re too big to eat, so I guess it’s all cool. Not sure if makes eat the young…I think they might…most of this is seen in labs, so I think maybe they just go a little crazy in captivity! And yay, to a doodlewash! Can’t wait to check it out! 😃

  11. […] via Odd Habits Of The Praying Mantis — Doodlewash […]

  12. Jill Kuhn 12 months ago

    I’m thankful human ears are not near their stomach! 😉 Can you imagine a hungry, growling human stomach amplified?! Lol! 😄 AWESOME Praying Mantis, Charlie! And your shading is fantastic too!! 💕🎨

    • Author

      Haha! I know, right? So weird… thankful that we’re built like we are and don’t devour each others heads when we cuddle! Lol Thanks so much Jill! Glad ya liked it!😃💕

  13. JennK 12 months ago

    I love everything about this! The colors, the shadow, the pose, etc 😀

  14. I thought for a moment that I was on the horror channel?? Scary looking creature, even more so if you are a male. Great work Charlie, I am going to be scared all day now, lol

  15. Cathe 12 months ago

    Completely bizarre! Beautiful doodlewash of a wicked critter!

  16. memadtwo 12 months ago

    Another creature I used to see often as a child, but not at all since then. Just as well…keep your distance! (K)

  17. You have a way of making bugs and scaly things seem cute and touchable. I don’t know how you do it, but you rock, my friend! Beautiful job. These things have always creeped me out but they are really cool.

    • Author

      Awww thanks Laura!! 😃💕I’m actually not that into bugs and scaly things in real life, but they’re super fun to doodlewash!! Glad you liked the painted version of this creepy thing! Hehe

  18. beverlydyer 12 months ago

    Had one of these fellas live on my patio basil for 2 months one summer, named him Manny (original huh?) Really wanted to write a children’s book called Manny Visits the Herb Garden. Did lots of sketches, and he/she would come up to the top of the basil when I watered to get a shower.

    • Author

      Awww, not that’s the cute sounding version of a mantis, Beverly! Would be a cute children’s book told like that! 😃Love that story!

  19. Myriam (Myr's Bytes) 12 months ago

    Fantastic painting, Charlie :-)! Love that look in her eyes. She looks shy or about to pounce. Perhaps coy? Anyway, the sense of anticipation is intriguing. Excellent writing too. Thanks for the laugh :-D!

    • Author

      Thanks so much! 😃💕 Hehe…yeah, she’s definitely ready to pounce! Definitely very coy…best to keep a safe distance! Lol Glad ya liked this one!!

  20. brygydmyry 12 months ago

    Haha! Great concise description!

  21. Jessica Seacrest 12 months ago

    Wonderful sketch Charlie, I like how it’s looking out at us!

  22. Jacob 12 months ago

    It’s a really beautiful doodlewash, but goodness, these chaps give me the creeps! The whole headless sex thing is hideous, but doesn’t strike me as completely surprising given the look in those big, deranged eyes!

    • Author

      Haha…yeah… The headless sex is definitely a deal breaker. Hopefully the lady mantis is honest of her tastes in her online dating profile! Lol

  23. artandmoondreams 12 months ago

    Amazing painting, quite lovely…just a bit startling at first glance..lol, pretty much the same reaction when I happen to bump into on of these in the garden. Your paintings really are fantastic and they always seem to get an emotional response..which is good…/shudder….Thanks for sharing the fun.

    • Author

      Hehe…yeah, some sort of emotion! A lot of surprise and fear though since I have a penchant for insects! Thanks so much, Haunani! 😃💕

  24. brushparkwatercolors 12 months ago

    Awesome how much character you put into this guy! Great!

  25. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 12 months ago

    This is a fantastic praying mantis. The expression on her face is wonderful. She looks like she got caught red handed – green legged? – and is praying for a reprieve from judgement for a full confession of her crimes. Hmm – I wonder how she’ll look in black and white stripes.
    Your art is gorgeous, Charlie – even the shadow is expressive.

    • Author

      Thanks so much Sharon! 😃💕Yeah, she’s been naughty for sure. Probably just decapitated her boyfriend, the little devil. But an fun subject to doodlewash! Glad you liked it!

  26. Curious to the Max 11 months ago

    I’m sending this on to 2 friends (neither of them know each other) who both claim to have had praying mantis pets when children!

  27. lordofthereeves 2 months ago

    Hey Charlie, great blog about the mantis. I too was highly intrigued by mantis sex. I decided to write a blog about how we can learn a lot from the female mantis’ approach.

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