Chinese Mantis

Tenodera aridifolia


Image of Chinese mantis.
Chinese mantis
Shelly Cox

Mantidae (praying mantises) in the order Mantodea (mantises)


Chinese mantises can reach 5 inches long and range from pale green to tan—usually tan, with a green line running down the side (the edges of the forewings). The head is triangular and swivels, so the mantis can track prey without otherwise moving. Mantises perch atop tall plants or other areas with a view, waiting to snatch any insect that flies or crawls past.

Similar species: The European mantis (Mantis religiosa) is another non-native mantis introduced to America; it grows to about 3 inches, and its color ranges from tan to bright green. It is best distinguished by a round black spot on the inner surface of its big front legs (the inside of its "upper arms"), but it can be hard to see when their arms are held together. The Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis carolina) is native to the southern United States; it is smaller, only reaching about 2 1/2 inches. It is dusty gray, tan or green, and the wings extend only three-fourths of the way down the abdomen in adult females.


Length: to 5 inches. Females are larger than males.

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A large mantis hangs upside down from a vine. It has caught an orange and black butterfly and is eating it.
A Chinese mantis eats a butterfly

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A brown, foamy cluster of mantis eggs.
Mantis egg case

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A green mantis perched on a coneflower stem
Chinese Mantis in Queeny Park in St. Louis County
Habitat and conservation

These insects are usually seen in and around the vegetation around houses as well as in grasslands, meadows and agricultural areas. Although mantises are fierce predators to insects, this species is considered harmless to humans. Chinese mantises were introduced to North America in 1896 and have spread since then. If you want to encourage mantises in your yard, avoid using broad-spectrum insecticides.


Chinese mantises are lie-in-wait predators, sitting motionless and waiting for their prey to fly or walk by. The mantis’s folded arms fly out quickly to grasp the prey and then hold it fast while feeding ensues. Mantises eat all kinds of insects and spiders, and adult females of this species have been known to eat small reptiles, amphibians and even hummingbirds.

image of Chinese Mantis Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Presumed statewide in meadows as well as in vegetation near homes.


Common throughout the state.

Life cycle

Hatchling mantises emerge in spring and immediately begin feeding—sometimes on each other. All summer they eat and grow mature. Sometimes the male is eaten by the female during or after mating; his body thus provides nutrition for the female and their offspring. Females lay eggs in foamy masses attached to twigs or branches. Dry, these resemble hard brown nuggets and can be as large as Ping-Pong balls. The adult mantises die when the weather gets cold in fall.

Human connections

Mantises help control insect pests and are appreciated by gardeners. In fact, the Chinese mantis was imported to North America for this reason, and farmers and gardeners still purchase their egg cases.

Ecosystem connections

In addition to their role as predators, mantises, especially when young, often fall prey to birds, reptiles and other predators.