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Description and Biology

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The Chinese praying mantid, Tenodera sinensis, is a slender, brown or green insect 3 inches (males) to 4 38 inches (females) long. The fore legs are adapted for grasping prey and are often held against the thorax in a "praying" position. The head is triangular with very slender antennae and prominent eyes. The Chinese mantid can swivel its head 180 degrees. Wings are held flat over the abdomen when not in flight. Females are flightless. Toward the end of their lives, females find a suitable stem and lay 50 to 600 eggs in a frothy mass that hardens around the eggs (the ootheca) that protects the eggs over winter. In spring, tiny nymphs hatch and sometimes dangle down from the ootheca in a small mass. Their soft integument soon hardens, and they disperse to find tiny insects upon which to feed. Nymphs molt six or seven times as they grow. Nymphs resemble smaller versions of adults, but lack wings (although older nymphs have noticeable wing buds).

A Chinese mantid eating a grasshopper.

Chinese mantids are large insects that usually wait on the approach of their prey.

Photo by Robert L. Anderson, USDA Forest Service,

A Chinese mantid ootheca

Chinese mantid oothecae contains hundreds of eggs.

Photo by Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State Univ.,

A Chinese mantid nymph

Chinese mantid nymphs develop wing buds as they grow.

Photo by Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State Univ.,

Chinese mantids feed on just about any animal they can subdue including butterflies, cockroaches, crickets, flies, grasshoppers, moths, and spiders. They have even been photographed feeding on humming birds! On the other hand, Chinese mantids are themselves fed upon by larger birds, reptiles, and insectivorous mammals.

Residential Recommendations

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Chinese mantid oothecae are sold as biological controls. If one purchases an ootheca, it is best to refrigerate it or keep it outdoors during the winter. A problem with bringing these egg masses indoors is that warm indoor temperatures cause the eggs to hatch prematurely, and the house is soon crawling with tiny praying mantids at a time of year that is very difficult to find insects to feed them. They then start to eat each other. It is a fascinating thing to feed a cricket or other small insect to a mantid. If kept in captivity, they need to be fed frequently and provided with a source of water. Websites that give directions for the care of mantids as pets are plentiful.

Other Resources

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For assistance with a specific problem, contact your local N.C. Cooperative Extension center.

This Factsheet has not been peer reviewed.


Professor Emeritus
Entomology & Plant Pathology

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Publication date: April 13, 2019
Revised: Oct. 26, 2019

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