The mantids were formerly considered to belong to the same Order as the Cockroaches. Current evidence, however, suggests that the former classification with both lumped within the Dictyoptera is no longer valid and they now occupy separate Orders.  There are about 2200 species of mantis currently described with the vast majority of them residing in tropical and subtropical regions.

Female Empusa fasciata - Lesvos, Greece - May 2006

Almost all mantis species are ambush predators, patiently waiting on suitable prey to stray within striking range then using their spiked forelegs to ensnare their victim in a lightning quick lunge.  A few species do, however, actively chase their prey.

Female Empusa fasciata - Lesvos, Greece - May 2006

The reputation of female mantises as femme fatales that habitually eat their mates during copulation arises largely from observations of captive individuals, but whether they also exhibit these canabalistic traits in the wild is highly controversial.  Many researchers believe that the behaviour is purely a consequence of being kept in captivity and results from the males being distracted by the bright lights and movement of people watching the insects in their cages and subsequently not giving the correct cues to the female during their often very elaborate and complex mating rituals.  

Ameles sp. - Lesvos, Greece - May 2006

Manu, Peru - December 2008

Tambopata, Peru - December 2008