The correct name for this insect is Praying mantis (or, in fact, Praying mantid as my photos were taken in New Zealand (above) and Cambodia (below) and I’m not sure which species these are), the word ‘praying’ coming from its stance – with its large front legs bent and resting together, the insect looks like it’s praying. However, the word ‘preying’ seems equally appropriate for the mantis as it’s a formidable hunter.
Mantids are masters of camouflage and use this ability to change their colouration to blend in with their surroundings, partly as a way to avoid being eaten by their predators but also, as they are mostly ambush predators themselves, as a way to more easily capture their own victims. They are also masters of the rapid pounce and their diet includes living insects like flies and aphids, crickets, moths, grasshoppers and even cockroaches.
But wait, there’s more. The Praying mantis can also be cannibalistic. When food is scarce, they will eat their own kind, though male mantids are most at risk from the females at mating time. It seems hungry females have a tendency to eat their mates if the males don’t dismount and run away as rapidly as possible after copulation.