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Praying Mantis
Stagmomantis Carolina

You may not notice them right away, but the open lands at Ryerson Woods are home to many of the remarkable creatures we call the Praying Mantis. These insects get their name from the way they hold up the forepart of their body with their enormous front legs, as if they were praying. You are most likely to see them in late September or early October, resting on the prairie plants or fluttering through the air. But look carefully. The praying mantids are large, about 3 - 4 inches long (our native species grow to about 2 or 3 inches in length), but their brown and green bodies are shaped like leaves and they are easy to miss.

The praying mantis is a carnivorous insect. Those large spiny front legs can grasp other insects and hold them as they are eaten. Although they may stalk their prey, usually they wait quietly, turning their head as they watch for an insect to come into reach. If he isn't careful, an interested male may be eaten by a hungry female.

In the fall, females lay a frothy sticky mass of eggs on tree twigs or plant stems. The froth hardens to protects the eggs during the winter. Little nymphs don't emerge until the next spring or early summer. Only one generation is born each calendar year.

Praying mantids will not bite if you pick one up and they do not carry diseases. But leave them where you find them at Ryerson Woods, or they may give you a nasty pinch with their strong spiny forelegs!

Beaver Damage
Praying Mantis
(Sue Auerbach, photographer)

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Pustelnik Designs and Friends of Ryerson Woods