Tag Archives: male praying mantis

The Dark And Fascinating Mating Habits Of The Praying Mantis

The praying mantis, so named for the prayer like gesture that it’s “hands,” seem to be making when inert, is a voracious predator. People often talk of the strange, black widow like mating habits of the praying mantis. Like the females proclivity to eat the male after mating and so has come to be viewed as something of an evil seductress. The insatiable, femme fatale who lures the poor, unsuspecting male praying mantis to his inevitable doom. But is such a dark and dreary reputation deserved? Does the conjoining of male and female in the praying mantis species always end in cannibalism? Let us explore the answer below.

The first time that the mantis’ cannibalistic proclivities began to surface to the world was when scientists attempted to observed them in a laboratory setting. The researchers would proffer a captive female with a prospective male mate. They would then sit back and watch with shock and horror as the female mantis tore the poor male apart, limb by limb and then devoured it’s head.

The male had served his purpose as a mate and was therefore disposable. Nothing more or less than a warm meal. For many years this bizarre ritual was thought to be the universal way in which the praying mantis bred in the wild.

However, things could not be further from the truth and when entomologists began to observe the praying mantis in it’s natural habitat, the story tended to end quite differently; specifically, much more happily for the males. For when they were unconfined in a laboratory setting, almost all of the praying mantis mating that was observed ended with the male mantis flying away, unscathed. By all modern calculations, the sexual cannibalism observed occurs less than thirty percent of time when the male and female are in a unbound setting beyond a lab. That, for the male, is quite a good set of odds of eaten or not eaten.

The sexual ritual of the praying mantis is also quite different in the wild, as it turns out. It is a lengthy courtship, quite a romantic thing far removed from the horrid decapitations of a lab, and typically ends with both parties quite satisfied and unharmed.

Yet there is a undeniable, somewhat horrible, advantage to the female if she does decide to decapitated her unsuspecting lover. It is a strange fact and yet completely true that the brain of a praying mantis controls inhibition. A similar ganglion in the abdomen, takes over for the bodily motions involved in mantis reproduction. Therefore, if the female decapitates the males head during intercourse he will copulate to her with wild abandon.

And so what if the female is hungry? That is typically where the thirty percent comes in. If a male chooses to mate with a hungry female he is unlikely to live to bred again.