The praying mantis is one of the most intriguing predators of the animal kingdom, but the reason they move so strangely is poorly understood. There is not one answer as to why the praying mantis sways, but there are a few reasons why these predators catch our attention.
1. Camouflage–why do praying mantis sway?
The first reason why you might see a mantis rocking from side-to-side is because it’s trying to make you think it’s just a leaf blowing in the wind.
The mantis developed this technique as a means of protecting itself from larger predators and wants to trick them into brushing it off as a piece of vegetation.
2. Point of View–why do praying mantis sway?
Because a praying mantis does not have a complex system of sight, they’ve developed a technique to see objects in the distance.
Unlike mammals, praying mantises can’t see very far. Therefore, they sway from side-to-side to distinguish objects in the background and foreground of the imagery directly in front of them.
3. Becoming the Prey–why do they shake?
It’s hypothesized that one reason why a mantis sways could be an attempt to mimic ants.
Ants are common snacks for praying mantises and they may sway slightly in order to blend in with them. This could work for darker species of mantis, but there is little evidence to suggest that this is an official adaptation.
4. Jumping–why do praying mantis shake?
The praying mantis is well-known for its powerful legs and wide jumps, but there’s a lot of preparation just for getting off the ground.
In searching for their prey, they first rock their heads from side-to-side to scan the area. They then rock their bodies back and forth to prepare for the jump.
This rocking allows them to align the parts of their bodies so that when they jump, it can be done accurately and precisely. If this is done wrong, they will miss their target. Some varieties also use their wings as additional support to elevate their jumping capabilities.
5. Mating–why do praying mantis dance?
This is a common thought for many when they see a mantis dancing: they are looking for a mate.
Males may dance in order to attract and seduce a female mantis in time for mating season. If they catch the attention of a female, the dance was successful.
Myths about Mantises
Some of the reasons why a mantis sways are surrounded by misinformation and unsubstantiated rumors. As explained above, there are numerous reasons why you may catch a mantis dancing, but other aspects of the mantis are misunderstood.
Though looking for a sexual partner is not the main reason why you might see a mantis rocking back and forth, there are many misconceptions about mating.
Female mantises are renowned for their cannibalism, but it’s not as common as you might think.
Cannibalism is very common among mantises in captivity. Because they’re not constantly hunting for prey, females are likely to be more hungry in captivity. If a male latches onto a hungry female, there’s a high chance that they’ll be eaten.
In addition to hunger, there are numerous theories as to why a female might eat her male counterpart when mating.
Some believe that this might actually increase the duration of mating when the male is headless and its remains are submissive. In turn, this increases the chance of fertilization.
Though the females are famous for ripping off heads, this only occurs in about a quarter of pairings and only in about one-third of mantis species in the wild.
Some people think that the predatory mantis is dangerous and easily provoked by humans, resulting in a bite. The cannibalism aspect of the mantis fuels this rumor by making people think that they are actually dangerous.
However, a praying mantis is usually harmless to humans. They will only bite if they feel like they are in danger, so if a mantis lands on you, there’s little to no risk of a bite. Their bite is not venomous or lethal either. Mantises are very docile towards humans. But, in case you belong to the few unlucky, click here to learn how to treat a manti bite.
Also, despite popular belief, praying mantis don’t spit venom.
People think that when they find a mantis in their backyard, they can put them in a jar with some sticks and leaves and they will be perfectly content in their new home.
In contrast, mantises are highly complex and intelligent creatures and keeping one requires proper care.
Caring for a mantis requires a ventilated enclosure, active plants, and nutritious food. They are predatory animals, so they like to hunt. Live insects like crickets or grasshoppers or even spiders would satisfy a pet mantis. Although baby praying mantis prefer much smaller insects.
They are also sedentary and solitary creatures, so they don’t like to be bothered too much by their owner.
For more information about keeping a pet mantis, you should visit a local pet store or consult an insect handler.
The praying mantis is an intricate, misunderstood, and fascinating creature. Because of their interesting movements, the praying mantis is an insect that will continue to spark our curiosity.