With front legs folded as if in prayer, the praying mantis is a master of deception because beneath this seemingly benign exterior lies an ambush predator of blinding speed. Nearly two thousand species of praying mantises are found around the world. Each one is an insatiable carnivore, each one capable of killing prey up to three times its size.
The mantis feeds mostly on living insects, birds, mice, frogs, snakes, lizards and soft shell turtles, also cannot escape the deadly speed and precision of the praying mantis. One of it’s hunting tactics, blending in. Mantises who live on the ground are spotted with grey and brown to blend in with the rocks and soil.
While those in trees are camouflaged to mimic leaves, flowers, twigs or bark. This camouflage allows them to sneak in perceptively towards their prey, stalking like a cat or lying in wait near flowers that insects are likely to visit.
The mantis spies its prey with a pair of large compound eyes made of up to ten thousand miniature eyes. Humans have two eyes to distinguish how far away an object is but the eyes of the mantis are too close together for such depth perception.
To compensate, mantises eerily sway their heads back and forth measuring precisely how their target moves against its background. These brilliant unblinking predators can even turn their head backwards to seemly track prey in any direction. And once the mantis is on the hunt all of these elements come into play.
It closely creeps towards its intended victims until it’s in striking range because beneath its limbs hide deadly weapons, rows of sharp spikes ready to spear its prey.
The mantis lashes out with its front legs with unbelievable speed, unleashing a forceful strike with her hooks in only one twentieth of a second. That’s twice as fast as a blink of an eye. And the long spikes on its legs easily pierce through and pin its victims.
Once the mantis has a deadly grip on its prey it begins to slowly chew often while the prey is still alive. Its mandibles are strong and sharp enough to cut human flesh. After it finishes its meal the killer thoroughly grooms itself like a cat, nibbling spins much like we might clean steak knives. Most mantises are also cannibalistic.
Females are notorious for devouring males while mating. However, such sexual cannibalism seems uncommon and usually happens when the female is starving.
The lethal strikes of the mantis have been an inspiration for the deadliest creatures of all, humanity. Entire styles of kung fu copy the praying mantis with martial artists mimicking the stances and attacks of this natural born killer.