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Insect Identification Key
Order Mantodea: the mantises (or mantids)

Mantid The green arrow shows the characteristic rasping forelegs of a preying mantis. Notice the difference in size between a foreleg and a middle leg, which in this photo is sitting on a leaf (yellow arrow). This preying mantis was photographed in Kalkaska, Michigan. Photo credit: Leslie Mertz.
Click here to see examples of more mantises!

Based on your answers to the questions, you have identified your insect as being in the order Mantodea!

Members of this order include: mantises, also known as mantids, praying mantises or preying mantises

Etymology: Mantodea comes from the Greek root word manto, which means prophet or soothsayer. This likely refers to the way the insect often sits: with its prothorax upright and its forelegs held together in a posture reminiscent of praying in humans.

General characteristics:
• long body
• triangular-shaped head that the insect can twist and turn
• typically winged (some are wingless)
membranous and folded fan-like when the insect is at rest
• forewings are thickened and narrower than hind wings, and conceal the hindwings when the insect is at rest
• long and large chewing mouthparts
• long thorax (especially the prothorax) with legs fairly far apart on the body
• long hind legs with five-segmented tarsi
hemimetabolous metamorphosis (egg — nymph — adult)

NOTE: If your insect is small with net-veined wings, it may be a mantid lacewing, which is actually a member of the order Neuroptera. To see a photo of a mantid lacewing, click here.

Click here to see examples of more mantises!

Number of species worldwide: about 1,500


Kingdom Animalia
   Phylum Arthropoda
      Class Insecta
         Order Mantodea

For a list of all of the orders in this key, click here: List of Orders.

Oops! If this doesn't appear to be the order for your insect, go back through the key and look more carefully at your insect while answering the questions again. Your perseverance will reward you!

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Unless noted otherwise, photographs on this website are the property of the photographers and may not be reused without written permission from the photographers. To obtain permission, request it here.

Photos at the top of this website are (from left to right): potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) — photo credit: Scott Bauer, U.S. Department of Agriculture; ebony jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata)— photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; sweat bee (Agapostemon splendens) — photo credit: Natalie Allen and Stephanie Kolski, U.S. Geological Survey; preying mantis, monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), hellgrammite (aka toe biter) larva and eyed click beetle (Alaus oculatus) — photo credit: Leslie Mertz; Halloween pennant (Celithemis eponina) — photo credit: Kay Meng, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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