Do Praying Mantises Fly?

  • By: CarlBroadbent
  • Time to read: 4 min.
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Yes, praying mantises are capable of flight! However, their flying abilities are poor and only capable of covering short distances. Flying praying mantises are at risk of predation and so tend only to fly at night.

Mantises are incredibly diverse with over 2,400 known species in the family. They have a wide range of flying abilities.

Generally, males tend to have wings capable of flights with the females being largely flightless. 

If you are encountering praying mantises and observing their antics in your garden then why not read on to learn more about these fascinating creatures and their unusual behaviours.

In This Article: We will explain more about the flying capabilities and flight of the praying mantis.

Praying Mantises Are Primarily Built for Hunting Rather than Flying

The curious appearance of the praying mantis is actually a highly efficient design which makes them excellent hunters, who are skilled at evading predation. 

Do praying mantises have wings
Some praying mantises have wings

Their large triangular head has large compound eyes, along with additional pairs of eyes to give them an exceptional visual field and acuity.

And of course, they have powerful jaws that make short work of their prey. 

Their compound upper body enables a wide range of movement and is comprised of an articulated prothorax, mesothorax and a metathorax with an auditory chamber for sensitive ultrasound hearing.

The abdomen has up to 10 armoured plates with the female abdomen being slimmer than the male abdomen.

It terminates in paired small appendages at its base known as cerci.

Did You Know: Praying mantises have six legs and use four of them to walk. Their prominent paired spiky raptorial forelegs are adept at grasping and holding prey securely. 

Do They Even Have Wings?

Mantises will either be: 

  • Long-winged (macropterous)
  • Short-winged (brachypterous)
  • Vestigial winged (micropterous)
  • Wingless (apterous)

The mantises that have wings will carry two sets with the outer wings known as tegmina being thick, narrow and leathery.

These wings are a shield and camouflage for the hindwings that will be used for flying if it takes place. 

Praying Mantis Wings Are Used for More than Just Flying

The wings of a praying mantis can be used as a decoy device with bright colours and eye patterns that can help the mantis appear larger than it is when they are spread.

This strategy may buy the mantis time to make a swift escape. The wings can also be used to camouflage a mantis or attract prey. 

Praying Mantises Tend to Leap Rather than Fly

Juvenile mantises with absent or underdeveloped wings have to rely on powerful and surprisingly accurate leaps to cover distance and land on unsuspecting prey.

These precision movements are incredibly fast and difficult to follow. The high level of articulation in the mantis upper body enables them to pinpoint their target and stabilizes them on landing.

The visual spectacle of a praying mantis jump is breathtaking, with its aerial flight every bit as effective as flapping wings:

How Do Praying Mantises Fly?

As mentioned above, praying mantises are more than capable of using their wings to take to the air with sustained and effective flying:

As you can see some mantises are very good at flying.

People who keep praying mantises as pets need to take care to close the windows when handling these insects as can simply fly out of the window!

Mantises Can Also Glide with Their Wings

Praying mantises can also glide.

This enables them to cover greater distances with less energy expenditure.

Why Do Praying Mantises Fly?

Female praying mantis
Praying mantis

Praying mantises to fly to explore and expand their territory.

Flying for praying mantises is always deliberate. Males are the primary aviators and will fly to search for a new territory or a mate. 

Gardeners in the US will become more aware of the presence of native praying mantis species in the mating season where males can often be seen flying in the early evening. 

A male will cover aerial ground in search of a female, increasing the biodistribution of the species.

They use the powerful pheromones secreted by females to guide them as they fly to track them down.

Less-known Fact: Male mantises are often smaller and lighter than females with larger wings that are up to the task of flying.

Though Females Can Fly They Are Less Likely To

Females are capable of flight but less adapted to flying and tend to rely on leaping for hunting prey.

They may fly to escape predation, they are known to use flight maneuvers to evade common predators like bats, suddenly dropping out of the sky if targeted. 

Rounding Up

Praying mantises are clearly capable of flight, adding this skill to their remarkable repertoire of behaviours and famed physical agility.

The flying, gliding and leaping of the praying mantis are all keys to its survival and persistence as a species, with both males and females unlikely to take to the air if they don’t have to. 

So, if you want to catch a praying mantis in flight it is probably best to wait for the mating season as the males will have every incentive to provide you and the local females with an aerial display!

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