National Geographic : 1914 Sep
0 A DEMON FLY KILLER : THE PRAYING MANTIS f TS SPINY fore legs are built to hold the struggling flies, while, with its sharp jaws, it tears them to pieces much as a hawk or eagle holds its prey with its talons and tears it to shreds with its beak. It is wasteful, too, of its food-as wasteful as the sea lion or the seal-throwing away the half-consumed carcass before it is finished and pursuing another victim. To kill a praying mantis has been in Mohammedan countries almost as great a crime as it is to kill an albatross at sea, but this was not because it kills the swarms of flies so common in those lands, but rather because of the prayerful attitude made necessary by its fiercely spined and powerful front legs. Its head is so loosely set on its long neck, or thorax, that it can move it from side to side with the greatest ease. Fabre declares that "the mantis is alone among all the insects in directing its attention to inanimate things. It inspects, it examines, it has almost a physiognomy." There is nothing about the spiders, terrifying though they must appear to their defense less prey, to indicate that they try consciously to frighten their victims, but the mantis, by spreading out its wings and curling up its abdomen and raising its talon-tipped, spiny legs, seems to deliberately petrify with terror the cricket or grasshopper which comes within its reach. Photograph by David Fairchild. From the "Book of Monsters," by David and Marian Fairchild, published by the National Geographic Society.