Thursday, March 5, 2020

5 Cool Things about Praying Mantids

two praying mantids on a branch - they look like they are dancing but they are probably fighting.
It’s Mantid Season again here at ARBICO; a time when these fascinating creatures are on all of our minds. Back in 2018, I wrote a blog that gave an overview of these nifty killers (read it here) and last year, I focused on some of their more singular attributes (look here). For my contribution this year, I’ve found some interesting little tidbits that you may not know:

A big gray bat hovering over the top of a green plant with a mantis on it1. They monitor bats: Mantids are not only voracious predators, they are also prey for voracious predators, which means they have had to develop some effective survival tactics. This is especially true at night, when bats are on the hunt and mantids are on the menu. To combat this threat, mantids have developed the ability to “read” the echolocation that bats use to find prey. Mantids can tell where the bats are and which way they are heading. If they come too close, mantids execute a quick nose dive (often flipping and slashing on their way down). This sudden shift directly downward is the same maneuver that fighter pilots use in aerial combat and is, according to this article, effective 80% of the time.

12 million year old praying mantis in amber
12 million year old praying mantis in amber
2. They are ancient creatures: Ancient insect fossils are exceedingly rare (due to the delicacy of their bodies), but a primitive mantid fossil was found that dates from the Cretaceous Period (66-146 million years ago). Scientists believe that mantids have been around as long as 200 million years (which pre-dates the dinosaurs), but this fossil represents when they first began evolving into what we recognize as a mantid. See it here. When you consider that scorpions have remained virtually unchanged for 300 million years and have been around (in one form or another) for over 400 million years, it seems fair to say that mantids came late to the prehistoric insect/arthropod game.

A sepia-toned photo of an old gray-haired woman and a young girl. San woman and granddaughter.
San woman & granddaughter
3. They are abundant in folklore: From ancient cultures to modern times, mantids have been made notable by people around the world. They found their way into ancient Sumerian texts and into Greek literature (Their name itself comes from the Ancient Greek word mantikos for prophet or seer). They were on Roman coins and in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. In China, they were matched up in fights like modern-day cockfights and Chinese proverbs are full of praise for their courage. Generally speaking, they have been portrayed as being wise and fearless, but sometimes they are seen as tricksters. In the tradition of the ancient San people of southern Africa, the mantis is seen as an embodiment of a mischievous, trickster god.

Master Mantis from Kng Fu Panda
Master Mantis from Kng Fu Panda
4. They inspired martial arts: If you think of Kung Fu when you see how a mantid moves, there is good reason for that. There are two distinct styles of Kung Fu (Northern and Southern) who have adopted the moves of the insect for their art. The Northern Style was created around 350 years ago and the Southern Style in 1800. These martial arts styles have been used widely in movies and television and are probably what most people recognize as Kung Fu.

Movie poster - The Deadly Mantis (1957)
5. They’re movie stars: Praying mantids have appeared in a bunch of movies. Usually they are large and fearsome; but, in the case of Kung Fu Panda, the role of the mantis
character is one of a courageous warrior (sound familiar?). Interestingly, there are two movies, Praying Mantis (1993) and Preying Mantis (2003), where there are no actual insects and the mantis referred to in each is a female serial killer (make of that what you will). In case you want to binge watch some mantis movies, I've made a list for you:
Praying Mantis (1993)
Monster Island (2004)
Goosebumps (2015)
The Deadly Mantis (1957)
The Preying Mantis (2016)
Kung Fu Panda (2008)
Kung Fu Panada 2 (2011) 

A video of a little boy watching a mantis - then it jumps on his nose.

I have excited your interest in praying mantids, you may want to check out our flash sale. For today and tomorrow we are offering special deals on the oothecas. These praying mantid egg cases are only available for a few months, so you should buy sooner rather than later.

Happy Mantid Season, y’all!
Submitted by Pam

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