Can Praying Mantis Fly? Interesting Facts
The Praying Mantis is a popular pet for multiple reasons. There’s a huge variety of species to choose from, each with a unique appearance. From the common European Mantis to more exotic species looking like leaves, sticks, or flowers, there’s an almost endless array of beautiful mantids. But their beauty and elegance aren’t their only noteworthy traits.
There are lots of fascinating facts to discuss about Praying Mantids. From their life cycle to breeding habits, to their hunting strategies, these insects never cease to surprise. But there’s a lesser-discussed, albeit equally interesting topic, which I’d like to address in this article.
As you can tell from the title, today we’re talking all about the Praying Mantis and flying. Do these bugs have wings? Can they fly? Let’s find out!
Does The Praying Mantis Have Wings?
At a first glance, it might look like Praying Mantids have long bodies and limbs, but no wings. Unlike butterflies, moths, and bees, a mantis’ wings aren’t always exposed. Instead, they’re neatly tucked in and folded along their backs. But they’re indeed there.
Not only do Praying mantids have wings, but they actually have two pairs of them. You don’t usually see them, but when the mantis is under threat, it will fan its wings as wide as possible to scare away its predators. The appearance of these wings depends on the species.
Some mantids have thin, almost transparent wings. Other wings are monochrome, like the rest of the mantis’ body. Better yet, some species have colorful wings with intricate details, and some even look like they have eyes painted on them.
However, while having wings is the general norm, there are a few exceptions. Nymphs have no wings, as these only develop during the final molt. Some mantis species have no wings at all, even after entering adulthood.
Can The Praying Mantis Actually Fly?
Yes and no. The answer depends on the species and sex of the Praying Mantis. In some species, the wings are absent or underdeveloped, which makes flying impossible. Generally, females can’t fly even if their wings are fully grown. In most Praying Mantis species, only the males can use their wings. This is a result of sexual dimorphism in action.
Why Can Only Male Mantids Fly?
Only male mantids get to fly, but they also get decapitated and eaten alive during reproduction so… is the trade-off worth it? Jokes aside, there’s actually an easy explanation why female mantids can’t fly. As I’ve already mentioned, it has to do with sexual dimorphism.
In most Praying Mantis species, the female is much larger than her male counterpart. Females have longer, stockier, and heavier bodies. Their wings are also shorter compared to the males’. As a result, the female can’t support her own bodyweight while flying. In species where the size difference between sexes isn’t as pronounced, females are also able to fly.
That’s the case for the European Mantis and the Chinese Mantis. However, the females are still heavier than males, even if just by a small margin. Males’ wings are always better developed. As a result, even flying female mantids can only cover small distances and their flight times are shorter.
How Far and For How Long Can the Praying Mantis Fly?
Praying Mantids can fly, but that doesn’t mean they’re good at it. Don’t expect to see a Praying Mantis gliding through the air as gracefully as a bird. The truth is, they have a clumsy flying style, consisting of quick, short bursts. They usually only fly when they have to flee or find a hunting spot. Males also fly when looking for a mate.
Praying Mantids use flying in conjunction with leaping to cover short distances. Due to their flying and hunting style, they can’t fly for long periods, when compared to other insects. A Praying Mantis would rather sit quietly and wait for its unsuspecting prey to approach its spot.
Will A Praying Mantis Fly at Home?
Most probably yes, if there’s enough space for it to do so. If the enclosure is small though, the Praying Mantis will just walk towards its destination. If your mantis needs to cover a larger distance, or if its prey isn’t within reach, you’ll probably see its quick, dart-like flying more often.
I’d definitely suggest making the mantids’ enclosure escape-proof if you don’t want to lose your pet bugs in the home. The mantids will likely fly out of an unsecured tank. If you intend to let them out of the enclosure, make sure that all doors and windows are closed, unless you want to free your bug into the wild.
I think letting your mantis fly around every once in a while is actually good, as long as there’s no danger of losing it. Not only can the mantis enjoy a wider space and have more freedom of movement, but you can also directly interact with it. If you keep an insect on your hand, your mantis will fly in closer to catch it.
Do Praying Mantids Fly at Night?
Praying Mantids rely on their vision when hunting for food. As a result, they’re most active during the day. But that doesn’t necessarily make them diurnal. Praying Mantids are also active during nighttime. Usually, male mantids fly at night in search of female mates. They can also continue looking for prey even in the dark. If they need to, mantids will fly during nighttime just like they do in daylight.
In fact, night flying has its perks, such as lower exposure to dangerous predators. Except for bats, Praying Mantids are actually less threatened during nighttime, because most of their other predators are inactive. And thanks to its ultrasonic hearing, a Praying Mantis can easily detect and avoid bats without seeing them in the dark.
When they can sense a bat approaching, the Praying Mantis changes its flying trajectory and it starts gliding down to the ground to hide. When kept in captivity and properly fed, a mantis doesn’t have any reason to fly at night. But they might be attracted to artificial lights. Similar to moths, they might try to fly closer to the light source, risking bad injuries.
Can The Praying Mantis Jump?
Praying Mantids might fly short distances with amazing speed, but the area where they truly shine is their powerful jumping ability. Because nymphs don’t have wings yet, they have to rely on jumping to cover long distances in shorter times. The same holds true for Praying Mantis adults too.
According to research done by Prof. Malcolm Burrows and a team of Cambridge colleagues, Praying Mantids can jump from one location to another in as little as one-tenth of a second. Not only that, but they’re also in full control of their movements in the air, as well as during landing.
Mid-jump, a Praying Mantis’ body spins in a controlled motion, at a speed of around 2.5 times per second. Just 10 milliseconds before landing, the mantis stops spinning its body and prepares for impact, always landing effortlessly on target.
Most Praying Mantids are endowed with wings, although only males can actually fly. Due to their larger and heavier bodies, most female mantids can’t support their weight while flying. Very few Praying Mantis species have flying females, and males have better wing development across all species.
Despite their ability to fly, Praying Mantids can’t cover long distances in a continuous flight. However, unlike other insects, they have incredible jumping speed, power, and agility. Jumping and leaping is the easiest way for nymphs and adults alike to travel quickly from one point to another.
Praying Mantids only choose to fly when necessary. They’re ambush predators, so they don’t need to chase their prey. Flying is usually reserved when fleeing from a potential threat, or when males are looking for mating partners. Even non-flying mantids can use their wings to appear larger and to intimidate predators.