Mantis religiosa, the green praying mantis you sometimes see in your backyard, is just one of the approximately 2400 species of mantises. These insects come in an amazing variety of sizes, shapes, and colors—and some are extremely beautiful.
1. GIANT DEAD LEAF MANTIS (DEROPLATYS DESICCATA)
You have to look carefully in the picture above to see a praying mantis. She’s there, with her head to the left, her legs hidden under a body that looks like a leaf. There are several species called dead leaf mantis, and Deroplatys desiccata is one of the largest, with females reaching over 4.5 inches long. It is native to Borneo, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Sumatra. This hardy species—which particularly loves to eat flying insects—will play dead when scared and sometimes, when threatened, displays its wings.
2. CONEHEAD MANTIS (EMPUSA PENNATA)
These alien-like insects are named for the cone-shaped protrusions on their heads. E. pennata is native to Spain, Greece, and other southern European countries.
3. SPINY FLOWER MANTIS (PSEUDOCREOBOTRA WAHLBERGII)
The spiny flower mantis is a tiny creature, just 1 to 2 inches long as an adult, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in beauty. Over the course of several molts (six for males, seven for females), these insects grow from tiny black nymphs that resemble ants to brightly colored adults with yellow spirals on their wings. See more pictures and video of the spiny flower mantis in a previous article.
4. ORCHID MANTIS (HYMENOPUS CORONATUS)
What a lovely pink bug! The orchid mantis is native to Malaysia. Though it looks like an orchid to us, it doesn't necessarily live among the flowers it resembles—but its floral appearance does attract easy insect prey. These bugs range from orange to white to pink; individual mantises change color as they molt and, once they're fully grown, can change color in response to environmental factors like light and humidity. Females of this species can grow to be 2.75 inches long, but males are much smaller: They're just under an inch long when fully grown. Read more about the orchid mantis here.
5. GIANT DEVIL’S FLOWER MANTIS (IDOLMANTIS DIABOLICA)
Shown here is Mad Madam Mim, a captive giant devil's flower mantis. The devil’s flower mantis is native to a few countries in Africa and grows to be nearly 4 inches long. In captivity, this species is high maintenance: It should only eat flies, and must be kept in an large enclosure where the temperature is nearly 100°F, humidity is high, and the air is circulating. These mantises are not for beginners, so Sweeches recommends that if you want to raise mantises, start by raising a giant African mantis, ghost mantis, or giant Asian mantis first. See a giant devil's flower mantis's magnificent threat display here.
6. GHOST MANTIS (PHYLOCRANIA PARADOXA)
This mantis—which looks like a cross between the dead leaf and conehead mantises—is native to eastern Africa and Madagascar. Individuals vary in color from green to brown, depending on the humidity of the environment.