The praying mantis is a creature that comes across as mild and unassuming, but behind this facade, behind its seemingly inconsequential size, delicate looking and almost fragile limbs, and slight build, is a formidable predator capable of great feats of strength, wisdom, and courage…. or haven’t you seen Kung-fu Panda?
The description stands, however. A ‘praying’ mantis gets its name from its hunting-position with folded forearms while ‘preying’ upon insects and other organisms that are unfortunate enough to cross its path.
There are many species of the mantis that belong to the Mantidae family and each one seems more terrifying than the other.
The cannibalization of the males by the females notwithstanding, praying mantis shares many of the features that other insects do: six legs, two antennae, and in some cases, wings. But, having wings doesn’t mean they can fly, does it?
Do praying mantis fly?
Some of them do. Gender, age, the species, and weight determine if a praying mantis can fly. Only some develop wings during their lifecycle. And among those that do, only a few are capable of flying.
Of the female mantes species that do have wings, hardly any can fly as their bodies are much heavier and their wings too small. They often leap or jump, rather than fly when they want to move around. That probably worked out for the best.
Male mantes, who weigh less than the females, sometimes do have wings, and some of the species can fly. In short, it all boils down to the species of male mantes.
Some species don’t ever develop wings, while others might develop wings that are too small or too fragile to support their weight and are thus not capable of flight.
Some species of male mantes, on the other hand, do develop wings and can fly. Just, not away from their female counterparts who methodically cut off their heads and then proceed to eat them while mating.
If not to fly away from danger and getting eaten, what other purpose do their wings serve? The wings come in handy when the mantes sense an imminent threat and use them to make themselves appear bigger, more dominant, and more aggressive in front of bigger animals or potential prey (like spiders or ants).
Preying Mantes, males, females, and babies alike are fascinating creatures. Let’s first take a look at their wings, and see how they work. Then, let’s consider their role in helping the mantes fly.
What do the wings of a praying mantis look like and what do they do?
Some species of praying mantes do not ever develop wings, while some develop a small set of them. Other species, however, are capable of developing full-length wings that once opened and fanned outward, can span the entire length of a mantis’ body.
There are two sets of wings. The outer pair of wings are colored. These colored outer wings help to camouflage the mantis and acts as protection against any threat. The inner set of wings is colorless, light in weight, and more delicate than the outer ones.
These are the wings that the mantis uses to fly and they don’t develop until the latter part of the very end of the mantis’ life span. Wings appear after molting, usually at the end of the mantes’ life span.
There are often patterns that are visible and can be traced on the inside of their wings. These patterns are mostly bold or garish swatches of color. These, along with the length of the wings, act as additional visual deterrents for predators and protect the mantis from any imminent threat.
The mantis also uses its wings to strike up a defensive pose by drawing up to its full height, spreading both the inner and outer wings fully open in order to make itself appear as big as it possibly can.
If this defensive pose fails to ward off the threat or cause its prey to cower in paralyzed fear, the mantis might then lash out and strike the prey or predators with its pincer-like forelegs and resorts to pinching or biting to protect itself or subsequently catch its prey. Moths, small birds, butterflies, and insects often fall victim to the praying mantes.
We have established that praying mantes have wings. But then, so do chickens, and they can’t fly. You probably have many questions: Do praying mantes fly? How do praying mantis fly? How far can a praying mantis fly? How high can a praying mantis fly? Can a praying mantis fly backward? How fast can a praying mantis fly? Do praying mantis fly or jump? What about the babies? Do baby praying mantis fly? Do praying mantis fly at night? How long can a praying mantis fly? What are green praying mantis? Can green praying mantis fly?
Depending on the species of mantes, the gender, the weight and build, and the stage of life they are currently at, we can analyze which species of praying mantes can fly and those of them that cannot.
Do male praying mantis fly?
Most male praying mantes do have wings and can fly. They are relatively lighter in weight and proportion when compared to female praying mantes and their bodies are better suited to fly, or at least jump far enough that you can mistake them to be flying.
Males are very good at flying. They often fly out to hunt and are primarily diurnal. Some species of male mantes, however, do fly at night and they are attracted to artificial lights. Nocturnal flying is particularly important to the male mantes. It helps them search for and locate less-mobile female mantes to mate with. They literally fly to their own demise.
Flying at night also exposes them to fewer predators or threats from birds than flying during the day would, so the male mantes capitalize on that and fly out to hunt during night time.
How do male praying mantes fly at night?
Male mantes have an auditory thoracic organ that helps them avoid any predators like birds or bats at night by detecting and responding to their echolocation signals effectively and evasively. Praying mantes flutter their wings frantically and repeatedly, making flapping when they fly out at night.
Oddly enough, they have one ear that is located in the very center of their abdomen. These help sense and detect high pitched tones and signals from bats. Bats are particularly dangerous predators to praying mantis, especially considering that they are nocturnal.
The mantes’ ears are developed specifically to pick up echolocation signals from bats and because of this, they know when they’re being chased or pursued. They usually make a sharp turn to get out of the bat’s trajectory and then they drop down towards the ground until they’re flying away to safety.
The Mechanics of Flying
As specified earlier, the praying mantes flutter their wings frantically and make loud flapping noises while they fly. Additionally, a praying mantis will also move its head back and forth in a specific way. They also shake their bodies when they stick the landing successfully.
Speaking of landing, praying mantes are known to make the most perfect landings possible, after a flight. They are reportedly always on target and have incredible precision in facing the right way while flying or stopping instantaneously and dropping abruptly to the ground to escape bats. They fly-leap- through the air and it is no ordinary feat because they literally cover space in the blink of an eye and flap of their wings.
Can female praying mantes fly?
Female praying mantes weigh significantly more than the male members of their species. They don’t often fly or venture out to hunt or even to mate. Their wings are relatively smaller than the dimensions of their bodies and cannot support the weight, or proportions, enough to hold them airborne for extended periods of time.
Also, their bellies get bigger and heavier when they’re about to lay eggs or ootheca as it is scientifically termed. During the mating season, the female mantes secrete pheromones. These pheromones that they emit are signals to male mantes that then set out to find females to mate with and be eaten by.
Can young praying mantes have wings? Do baby praying mantis fly?
Wings don’t fully develop until the latter part of a praying mantis’ life span. So, to answer the question do ‘baby praying mantises fly’, I’d say they don’t. Many species, as mentioned earlier, do not develop wings at all during their lifetime.
While they don’t leap across vast spaces in a single bound, praying mantes, especially young ones, have the remarkable ability to cover large spaces and distances by leaping from point A to point B, in a fraction of a second and less than a blink of an eye.
They do not, however, have wings, but evolution has seen fit to bless them with remarkable abilities that help them travel great distances quickly. An added bonus is that they land precisely where they want to-usually on small prey– every single time.
Now that we have covered factors such as gender, age, and body dimensions, all of which determine whether praying mantes can fly, let’s take a look at how different species have evolved over the years and whether they have wings, and can subsequently use those wings to fly.
What are the different species of praying mantes?
There are three predominant species of praying mantes
- The Chinese
- The European and
The Chinese praying mantes are considered to be the largest of its kind. While both the male and female praying mantes of this species have wings, the males are predictably smaller and weigh less and can fly greater distances. The front wings of this species are brown with a lined border of lateral green stripes.
Do Chinese praying mantis fly? Females do possess wings, but they do not fly. The male, once again, is forced to do all the work and travel long distances- as long as 100 miles- to find a mate.
The European species of praying mantes are the most common species. The young one can develop wings, and have the ability to fly, but only the males. Their wings are smaller than the Chinese (5 inches), at 3inches, but larger than the Carolina which doesn’t grow more than 2.5 inches. This in no way affects the quality of their flying.
Other species include mantes from the family Liturgusidae, which are predominantly males species of night fliers. The Budwing mantes or Parasphendale affinis which get their names from the females who have short wings are originally from Kenya. They are commonly kept as pets, and while they cannot fly, they do leap.
Then there are brown praying mantes that belong to the genus mantodea. Close relatives to cockroaches and termites, these mantes live in tree trunks and branches. Some of them do develop brown wings- ergo, the name- but few of those can fly.
So, do brown praying mantis fly? Those that do, fly at night, usually infrequently and short distances. These mantes are known for the skilled use of their wings to catch and eat moths.
Difference between the mantispidae, or mantisfly, and the praying mantis
The mantispidae or mantisfly is not to be confused with the praying mantis. The former is arguably weirder than the praying mantis and looks like a cross between a green lacewing and a praying mantis. While both these species stalk their prey and hunt in similar ways, they are not one and the same, as most people misconstrue. They do, like the mantes, have winds and can fly.
You’re probably wondering what brought you here to this article. Let me summarise some of the things we’ve gone over about the praying mantes and whether or not they can fly.
- There are many factors that determine whether a praying mantis can fly: its gender, its age, the species it belongs to, and even its weight.
- Accordingly, they develop wings during the latter part of their lives. Not all praying mantes develop wings. Among those that do, only a few are capable of flying.
- Male praying mantes are relatively smaller and weigh lesser than female praying mantes. They fly out, flapping their wings and using echolocation to hunt prey and avoid being preyed upon, by birds during the day and bats during at night time.
- Female praying mantes weigh more, fly less, and behead and eat the males because they get hungry when they copulate.
- Female praying mantes fly relatively less, and when they do want to mate, they secrete hormones to get the male mantes to fly out in search of where they are.