National Geographic : 1950 May
689 John G. Pitkin Catlike, a Fastidious Mantis Scrubs Her Face and Preens Herself After Every Meal The after-dinner ritual may take as long as 15 minutes. The insects do a thorough job, cleaning each leg in turn with the mouth (above), polishing the face with forelegs, even running the antennae through the jaws. Then they are ready for the next meal. Young mantids eat chiefly aphids and leaf hoppers. As adults they live on flies, spiders, grasshoppers. crickets, locusts, bees, wasps, and even beetles. Almost any insect will do. In nature their prey must be alive and moving. In captivity they prefer their natural diet, alive, but will accept small bits of meat offered on a moving straw or toothpick. One insect the mantis gives a wide berth-the common ant. Often these tiny ants swarm over a mantis egg case, killing and eating the young as they hatch. After their tirst day the survivors can take care of themselves and have few, if any, natural enemies. But even as adults all mantids, seemingly by instinct, let ants pass unmolested. Related to grasshoppers, mantids are true insects, having six legs. Unlike their muscular forelegs, the walking limbs are long and slender. On them they stalk in slow and ungainly manner. Usually they wait patiently in a strategic spot for their prey. At times they roam, actively on the prowl. In either case the vicious forelegs are raised ready to strike. Other insects often accept the mantis as one of them, unaware of its predatory designs until too late.