What is a praying mantis?

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 forwards 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 "preying 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. Mantodea or mantises is an order of insects that contains approximately 2,200 species in 15 families worldwide in temperate and tropical habitats. Most of the species are in the family Mantidae. Historically, the term "mantid" was used to refer to any member of the order because for most of the past century, only one family was recognized within the order; technically, however, the term only refers to this one family, meaning the species in the other 14 recently established families are not mantids, by definition they are empusids, or hymenopodids, etc.), and the term "mantises" should be used when referring to the entire order.

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