The Chinese Praying Mantis makes an interesting pet, and they are easily found in most pet stores.
In the wild, the Praying Mantis is quite beneficial as a pest control agent as they feed on insects, including the many harmful insects that may reside in gardens. Some larger tropical species will even feed on tree frogs, small hummingbirds, and lizards. It has even been reported that some have fed on mice. In order to capture its prey the Praying Mantis will wait perfectly still on a plant; its unusual body shape and its earthy color allows it to blend into its surroundings making them difficult to see. This allows the Praying Mantis to easily catch and devour insects that pass by. Some tropical mantids have brilliant colors and so closely resemble flowers that insects land directly on them. In order to escape potential predators these amazing animals have evolved with a hollow chamber in their bodies. This chamber allows them to detect high frequency sound. This ability allows them to remain alert against bats. Birds are also a natural predator for the Chinese Praying Mantis. Many people keep the Chinese Praying Mantis as a pet, even though mantids are one of the more difficult insect species to keep. These insects are nocturnal and are therefore mainly active at night. The Chinese Praying Mantis' lifespan is between five to six months.
The Chinese Praying Mantis is larger than most mantid species living in temperate climates. Chinese Praying Mantids grow up to 6 inches in length. They are generally green or brown in color and are recognized by their distinct "praying" posture. Their first thoracic segment is longer than that of other insects, allowing the Mantis to rotate and watch its prey unobserved. The Praying Mantis is the only insect that can turn 180 degrees. Their strong forelegs are covered in long spines, which help to trap insects. The Mantis sits with its arms raised and together in front of its head, as though it were preying, until the insect becomes trapped in the spines when it is devoured. The Chinese Praying Mantis has compound eyes on either side of its large, triangle-shaped head. Their forewings are leathery in texture and short, and the jaws of the Praying Mantid are very powerful. Chinese Praying Mantids go through a life cycle, which begins at the nymph stage, and young Mantids will sometimes eat each other. They continue to grow and molt and at full size have a camouflaged, angular appearance. Mature males have eight abdominal sections and females have six abdominal sections. As nymphs, or babies, Chinese Mantids do not have wings. After molting (shedding skin) several times, wing pads appear, which turn into full wings after the final molt. Fully grown females don't have much use for wings in late summer, because their abdomens are swollen with eggs, leaving it incapable of flight.
Although over 2,000 species of mantids are found nearly worldwide, many areas see only a few species commonly. For example, though there are at least 21 different species known to live in the United States, though the Eastern United States sees only three species of mantid regularly, one of which is the Chinese Praying Mantis. The Chinese Praying Mantis is not native to the United States. They were originally introduced from China, where they originate, in the early 1900s to help gardeners with pest control.