Yes, praying mantises are capable of flight! However, their flying abilities are poor, and only capable of covering short distances. Flying mantids 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 flight, with females being largely flightless.
If you are encountering a praying mantis and observing their antics in your garden, then why not read on to learn more about these fascinating creatures and their unusual behaviors?
In This Article: We will explain more about the flying capabilities and flight of the praying mantis.
Table of Contents
Praying Mantises Are Primarily Built for Hunting Rather than Flying
It’s true that praying mantises can fly. However, female mantids can not fly.
The curious appearance of the mantis is actually a highly efficient design that makes them excellent hunters who are skilled at evading predation.
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 armored 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.
Did You Know: A praying mantis received their name because it appears they are praying with its legs. It is a giant insect that will mesmerize you.
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 colors and eye patterns that can help the mantis appear larger than it is when they are spread. The male is able to fly short distances when needed.
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, the mantis is more than capable of using its 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 they can simply fly out of the window!
Mantises Can Also Glide with Their Wings
A praying mantis can fly but also glide.
This is one way that enables them to cover greater distances with less energy expenditure.
Why Do Praying Mantises Fly?
A praying mantis can 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 to mate with, increasing the biodistribution of the species.
They use the powerful pheromones secreted ability by females to guide them as they fly to track them down.
Less-known Fact: Male mantids are often smaller and lighter than females, with larger wings that are up to the task to fly.
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 to hunt 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.
Mantids are capable to fly, adding this skill to their remarkable repertoire of behaviors and famed physical agility.
The flying, gliding, and leaping of the 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 fly, 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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