What Does a Praying Mantis Look Like?

Praying mantis look similar to grasshoppers, but their twiggy appearance and bigger bodies make them different.

What Does a Praying Mantis Look Like? A praying mantis looks like an insect with a three-segmented body, including a head, thorax, and abdomen. It has a long neck, triangular head, one ear, antennae, wings, two compound eyes, and six legs having two spiked forelegs. They appear green or brown and look like a twig from close. 

It is not difficult to identify the praying mantis if you know its features because its body shape, color, and even some behavioral characteristics are distinctive.

What are the characteristic features of a praying mantis?

A praying mantis looks like a typical insect, having segmented bodies comprising of a head, thorax, or abdomen and having a few distinguishing features, making them different from others.

Triangular head

One of their distinguishing features is the first segment of their body, as they possess a small triangular head, as insects usually have rounded or rectangular heads.

In addition, these insects can rotate their triangular heads up to a half circle as their heads can be rotated to almost 180 degrees. It allows better targeting and hunting of prey.

Their mouth is at the tip of a triangle, while two large compound eyes are on the other two upper corners. Three small eyes are also present in addition to two large bulbous eyes.

Moreover, the head region comprises mouthparts, including mandibles or chewing organs that are crucial for these insects allowing them to bite or chew their prey.

Body color

They have natural colors allowing them to blend with their environment and camouflage whenever they feel a risk of attack from predators.

Some have green color bodies that can easily blend with the leaves and stems and remain unnoticed by predators. In addition, brown and white praying mantis can hide in the desert and in tree trunks.

In addition, the orchid mantis has pinkish body color and can easily camouflage in the orchid plant. These can appear in several shades of pink and attain brown color when near death.

So, their body color plays a crucial role in reducing their susceptibility to predator attack and helps increase their lifespan as they can blend with the colors in their natural habitat.

Long neck

These insects have a longer thorax region that looks like a neck as it is connected to the head from one side. This region is divided into distinct parts like prothorax, mesothorax, and metathorax.

It gives them a slender shape due to their longer length and connects with the head through a flexible joint allowing their necks to rotate heads up to a half circle.

The prothorax region helps in mobility and allows these hunting predators to move their heads while remaining still, as they can get a better view of their surroundings without moving bodies.

Their moving necks make them more swift predators as they remain alert to the activities in their surroundings.


Praying mantis have two small antennae that look like a fine thread. These antennae have sensory receptors allowing these insects to sense the odors and activities in their surroundings.

A pair of antennae are attached to the head and divided into different segments known as flagellomeres with sensilla on their surface.

This antennal structure grows in size after every molting stage as new sensory structures appear. It allows insects to interact with insects in the environment for different purposes.


Males and females praying mantis have wings on their bodies that are developed in later stages of their lifecycle, as nymphs have no wings.

In addition, they have a pair of wings that can be long or short, which depends on the type of insect and growth stage. Adult insects can fly and reach their prey, but young mantes lack wings.

Both front and hindwings have cross-veins and extend from the thorax to the abdominal region. The forewings overlap with the hindwings around the abdomen and give a leathery appearance.

The forewings appear more leathery and cloudy, while the hindwing is clear, having a membranous structure. The hindwings are larger and can be folded back.

Spiked forelegs

Praying mantis possess six legs or 3 pairs of legs attached to the thorax region. The first pair is attached to the prothorax and are longer than the other two pairs.

The middle pair is attached to the mesothorax, while the last pair of hind legs are connected to the metathorax region, keeping them in a balanced position on the ground.

They are known for their distinctive praying positions when they bring two front legs at a close distance and keep them closed tightly.

In addition, the forelegs contain a set of spikes that are helpful in the hunting process. These are raptorial and are involved in clasping their prey and reducing chances of escape.

These spiked forelegs allow these predatory insects to maintain a firm grip over the prey and start eating their bodies without waiting for them to die.

Single ear on the belly

Most commonly, animals have two ears, but insects do not possess any organ like an ear for hearing purposes. However, these praying mantis contain a single ear on their bellies for hearing.

They do not have two ears like higher organisms; only one ear is on the underside of their abdomen. You can see it close to the hind legs in the forward direction.

This organ allows the insect to detect the sound waves, particularly ultrasound, to protect against the bats because these predatory bats produce ultrasound.

Moreover, this ear does not allow the insect to detect the exact direction of sound because it is not located on the head region and is hidden close to the hind legs.

What does a female praying mantis look like?

The male and female praying mantis have a similar appearance to a maximum extent, but there are a few minor differences as they have varying body sizes.

The female insects appear bigger than males, reaching around 5 to 6 inches at maximum, while the males can extend from 3 to 4 inches.

In addition, the females are more agile and powerful due to their bigger bodies and can deal efficiently with attacking predators. However, they have heavier bodies than males and cannot fly like them.

Their wings cannot handle their massive bodies and cannot help them fly like their male mates. It weighs around 3 to 5g, while the males can only weigh 2g at maximum.

Moreover, the length of the antennae is shorter in females, and they possess smaller eyes. You can differentiate pregnant mantis from males by looking at their swollen abdomens.

What does a baby praying mantis look like?

Praying mantis have bigger bodies, reaching around 2 to 3 inches of body length on average. However, the praying baby mantis is only 1 to 1.5 inches long, and its length increases over time.

The baby mantis or nymphs have slight variations in their physical appearance and behavior from adults as they are still immature and pass through developmental stages.

In addition, they do not have wing-like structures on their bodies, but they are developing wing buds that will become wings later. As a result, they look like a twig or a stick when seen from close.

Both adults and nymphs have similar body colors and shapes. They have elongated bodies, but the absence of wings allows easier differentiation of young from adults.

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