How Did the Praying Mantis Get Its Name?
The praying mantis got its name from its appearance. It is a long, slender insect that often sits in an upright position with its front legs folded beneath its head as if it were praying. This insect is not really praying, of course.
It is actually waiting for a meal to pass by. The praying mantis eats other insects. It sits motionlessly in wait with its body raised in its hunting pose. When an unsuspecting grasshopper or other insect comes within striking range, the mantis quickly grabs the victim with its spiny front legs, and eats it.
However, the insects will also eat others of their own kind. The most famous example of this is the notorious mating behavior of the adult female, who sometimes eats her mate just after—or even during—mating. Yet this behavior seems not to deter males from reproduction.
Females regularly lay hundreds of eggs in a small case, and nymphs hatch looking much like tiny versions of their parents. The larger group of these insects is more properly called the praying mantids. Mantis refers to the genus mantis, to which only some praying mantids belong.