Insects of Britain and Ireland: orders

DELTA home

L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz


~Dictyoptera-Mantodea. Praying mantids.

Adult insects. Predatory. Very large (the species most likely to be encounered in Britain reaching about 6 cm in length); with hardened ‘elytra’ (q.v.), representing the fore-wings; capable of flight, or flightless (the females often lacking functional wings); when flying, with one pair of propellant wings (the hindwings). Body dorsiventrally flattened. Head hypognathous to opisthognathous. Mouthparts well developed; of the biting type; conforming to the generalized biting type. Antennae conspicuous; simple; 20–40 segmented (? “many segmented”). Ocelli 3. Wings when present, four; in flying forms, markedly differently textured in the two pairs. Fore-wings leathery. Hind-wings membranous, when functional larger than the fore-wings; markedly broader than the fore-wings; folded in repose. Wings with numerous cross-veins; not fringed. Wings of the resting insect closed and directed backwards. Tarsi 5 segmented. Abdomen conspicuously appendaged at the rear; with cerci clearly visible at its tip (these several- to many- segmented).

Eggs The eggs laid in batches within a protective case (ootheca).

Larvae. Development of larva into adult exopterygote; not involving a pupal stage.

Classification. Subclass Pterygota; Division Exopterygota.

British representation. Mantidae; genera 1; 1 species (Mantis religiosa).

Special features. With conspicuously modified, raptorial fore-legs, associated with a characteristic ‘praying’ posture.

General comments. Although this orthopteroid Order is not represented in the native British fauna, Mantis religiosa is common in northern France, and this and more spectacular tropical species are often kept as pets, which sometimes escape. In addition to their characteristic supplicatory posture, they are notably voracious carnivores, feeding mainly on other insects, which they seize and hold between the spined tibiae and femora of the pincer-like fore-legs.

Illustrations. • An African species: Shaw and Nodder (1798). • An Australian species: Watson 2002. • Mantis religiosa.

To view the illustrations with detailed captions, go to the interactive key. This also offers full and partial descriptions, diagnostic descriptions, differences and similarities between taxa, lists of taxa exhibiting or lacking specified attributes, and distributions of character states within any set of taxa.

Cite this publication as: ‘Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. 2003 onwards. Insects of Britain and Ireland: orders. Version: 16th May 2016.’.