The European Mantis belongs to the Mantidae family, Mantodea order of mantises. It prepares to ambush its prey by lifting its spiked forelegs, so-called raptorial legs.
At approximately 75mm, females are significantly larger than the males, who normally reach approx. 60mm. Colouring ranges from bright green to brown. After each moult, the primary colour of the insect varies according to the colour of its environment. There are three ocelli (simple eyes) between its compound eyes on its large, triangular head, which is extremely flexible. Its extended pronotum is around half as long as the abdomen.
Mantis religiosa is the most frequently occurring mantis in Central and Southern Europe. It prefers dry grasslands, meadows which are dry and/or have high grasses, and shrubs.
Endangerment and Conservation Status
The European Mantis is one of the most stringently protected species in Vienna and Lower Austria; in accordance with the Vienna Environmental Protection Act, it enjoys full habitat protection in all places, spaces and areas in Vienna covered by the law as well as in the Donau-Auen National Park.
A few days after copulation the female lays 100 to 200 eggs in a frothy mass which hardens quickly into a protective, anti-fungal capsule; this egg mass is called an ootheca. While mature individuals do not survive the cold season, the eggs over-winter. From the beginning of May to the beginning of June, larvae which are 5 to 6mm long hatch. After five to six different larval phases (females have a higher number of larval cycles), the insects leave the nymph phase around the end of July to the beginning of August. Two weeks after the final moult (imaginal moult) they have matured.
During mating the female may engage in sexual cannibalism and begin to eat the male from the head down. This, however, is the exception and not the rule; its supposed prevalence has been propagated by flawed experiments in which the laboratory conditions themselves – where for ex. overly small receptacles were utilized – appear to have influenced the behaviour of the species. When threatened or attacked, the European Mantis displays the black spots on its forelegs (mimicry), and may emit a hissing noise which it produces by rubbing its spread wings against its abdomen.