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Sexing A Praying Mantis

Sexing a praying mantis can seem more complicated than it actually is. Here's our guide on how to sex your praying mantis, from segment-counting to analysing body shape. We've also added in some brief pointers on specific mantis species and their unique sexual dimorphism.

Table of Contents

The Difference Between Male And Female Mantis

There are numerous differences between male and female praying mantis. Most notably, male praying mantis are smaller, timid, much more flighty than females. Females are aggressive, gluttonous, large in size, have a plump, round abdomens and are more handleable and calm.

Of course, there is much more to it than just that.

Her adult male counterpart. Yes, he’s really this small! The sexual dimorphism in this species is one of the most extreme examples in praying mantis.

Mature female giant Asian mantis.

Mature male giant Asian mantis.

 

Species-Specific Sex Based Differences & Features

Let’s first note that everything we’re about to go into varies heavily by species. Not all praying mantis species present their sexual dimorphism in the same way. 

For example, some males and females are not all that different in size, like the Egyptian pygmy mantis, while the size difference between male and female orchid mantids is incredibly apparrent, as seen below.

A mature female Orchid Mantis (Hymenopus Coronatus) next to a penny for scale.

 

Her adult male counterpart. Yes, he’s really this small! The sexual dimorphism in this species is one of the most extreme examples in praying mantis.

There are many differences between male and female praying mantis that are strictly species specific. 

For example, male and female ghost mantis (Phyllocrania paradoxa) have uniquely shaped head crests. Male devils flower mantis, Idolomantis diabolica, have long, moth-like feathery antennae, where females have tiny curly ones. Orchid mantis (Hymenopus coronatus) have a ring-like marking around the neck that may be green or brown depending on their sex. 

Female mature dead leaf mantis (Deroplatys dessicata). 

The thorax shield on a male mature dead leaf mantis (Deroplatys dessicata)

 

 Dead leaf mantis (Deroplatys sp.) have uniquely shaped thoracic shields for males and females, as seen above. As you can tell, sexing is different for every species.

With that out of the way, the information below is highly generalised, and all information on sexing your particular praying mantis species can be found on the corresponding species-specific care guides.

Methods Of Sexing A Praying Mantis

There are several methods for sexing a praying mantis. It’s easy to eyeball certain things, for example, the difference in body size or shape. Other popular methods include counting the abdominal segments, observing the shape of the abdomen, anal cerci, and length of the antennae.

Body Size

As we’ve discussed, female praying mantis are typically bigger than males. Size difference is not always noticeable in young nymphs, but becomes more apparent as a mantis matures. Sex-based size difference seems directly affect the temperament of male praying mantis, they can be more timid than their female counterparts.

Mature female giant Asian mantis.

Mature male giant Asian mantis. 

Here are the two mantis we saw at the start, now with a penny for scale.

You can see the size difference reflected in their general proportions. The female is not just larger, but she also has larger arms and thicker, longer legs.

Abdominal Segments

Counting the abdominal sections on the underside of the abdomen is a key way to determine the sex of your mantis as the number of segments varies between sexes.

This number also varies by species, however male praying mantis always have one or more segments than females. 

The details of segment counting for your particular species can be found in our species-specific care guides.

Mature female giant Asian mantis abdominal sections.

Mature male giant Asian mantis abdominal sections.

We’ll use the giant Asian mantis (Hierodula membranacea) here to demonstrate. Male giant Asian mantis have 8 total abdominal sections. Females have 6. This is a good method of sexing young mantids, however segments can be tricky to accurately count.

Abdomen Shape

As seen in the picture above, the abdominal shape of a mantis depends on their sex. This is a useful way to determine the sex of a mantis in later instars.

As nymphs develop, the abdomen of female mantis become round, where male abdomens stay long and thin. This is a great way to determine the sex of some mantis species, but in others this difference is less obvious.

Anal Cerci

The anal cerci are small, antennae like sensory appendages found on the end of the abdomen. Cerci are used to detect wind and vibrations. In male mantids, the anal cerci point outwards from the body. In females, the cerci point inwards and touch. 

Mature female anal cerci.

Mature male anal cerci.

Antennae Length

Male praying mantis have longer, thicker antennae than females. Once again, this difference is more pronounced in some species than others and becomes more obvious with age. 

Wing Length

The wings on male praying mantis are almost always longer than their abdomen. Female mantis have short wings that do not extend past the abdomen. 

Unfortunately, this method of sexing is only applicable after they develop wings on the final molt, and cannot be used to sex nymphs. Female mantids cannot fly at all, and males fly only short distances.

The wings of a female mantis. They do not extend past the lower abdomen.

The wings of a male mantis. Male wings are often thin and glass-like compared to the compact wings of females.

Behavioural Differences

As previously mentioned, female praying mantis are larger, stronger, and more aggressive than males. 

This means that male mantids, like many other arthropods, rely on submission and complex mating precautions to ensure they are not eaten. This submission and timidity carries over to their overall behaviour but is only really noticeable in adults.

In personality, male mantis are incredibly cautious, flighty and shy. They do not eat very much and are easily spooked by prey items.  Many people prefer to keep male mantids for their gentle and attentive personalities.

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