Which insect is sometimes called a “vicious predator”?
The praying mantis, also called a praying mantid, is a large flesh-eating insect that lives in warm areas of the world. Mantis species from Europe and China were introduced to the northeastern United States about 75 years ago for use as pest exterminators on farms and in gardens. These carnivorous insects—sometimes called “vicious predators”—are among the few insects that can rotate their heads to look over their shoulders, making them extremely effective hunters. They pose in a deceptively humble posture when searching for food, as if their front legs are folded in prayer. Mantises grab their victims with their raptorial front legs, which quickly shoot out from their bodies. Mantises almost always start eating their catch while it is alive, and they often start eating their victim’s neck to quickly end the struggle. Praying mantises eat a variety of insects—other mantises, beetles, butterflies, crickets, grasshoppers—and spiders. They also eat small tree frogs, lizards, mice, hummingbirds, and other nesting birds. Because they keep down the populations of “bad bugs” that threaten farms, they are highly useful to agricultural workers.