The praying mantis is an insect belonging to the family Mantoidea. The name “mantis” means “a diviner” and the insect has always been surrounded by superstition and legend because of its habit of remaining motionless or swaying gently backwards and forward with its head raised and front legs outstretched as if in prayer.
In fact it is a ferocious killer and could more aptly be described as a “praying mantis”. Most mantids are camouflaged and look very like the vegetation amongst which they live. The front legs are shaped like clasp knives to grasp the mantis’s victim in an inexorable grip while it is torn apart by its captor’s mandibles. The mantis even devours poisonous insects as well as its own kind. A male mantis may often be eaten by the female after mating.
Most species of mantids are tropical or sub-tropical, but about 20 species occur in Europe.