Stagmomantis carolina

Geographic Range

This species is found in southern North America, from the state of New Jersey west to Illinois, Missouri, Texas, and Arizona, and down through Mexico to Central America. (Lutz, 1948)


Mantids are found in woodlands and meadows, especially around flowering plants.

Physical Description

The Carolina mantid grows up to be about 4-7 cm in length with a large head and abdomen. They have a pair of large forelegs that are serrated and spiny and folded back like a pocket knife. The body color is a tannish-brown with wings that are light green. They hold their forelegs up in a praying position to grab prey. Adult males are smaller and more slender than females, and have longer wings. (Lutz, 1948; Lyon, March 22, 2000; Teyssier, Jul/Aug '97)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger


Stories of mantid cannibalism during mating are well known, but frequently exagerated. Female mantids do sometimes attack and eat males during courtship or mating. This kind of cannibalism in Stagmomantis carolina has only been observed scientifically in the laboratory, and it is not known whether it occurs in natural conditions. It is partly a function of female hunger: well-fed females are much less likely to attack their mates. The voracious hunger of mantids is no surprise -- each female will produce one or more egg pods, each of which weighs about a third of her body weight. She needs a lot of food to make that reproductive effort, and male mantids are one of the largest and most easily acquired prey around her.

Females lay their eggs in a case formed from a liquid foam secreted from abdominal glands. The foam quickly hardens to form a protective shell. In temperate North America, all adult mantids die in the winter, and only eggs survive to the following spring. There is one report of overlapping generations of S. carolina occuring in Florida. (Hurd, 1999; Price, 1984)


Mantids are ordinarily very sedentary, and may spend their whole lives on one tree or in a single meadow. They will stay in one place as long as there is a good supply of food. In late summer males start to move around more, looking for potential mates. Males fly more than females, usually at night (Hurd 1999)

Mantids have "ears" on their bodies that can detect high-frequency sounds like those used by bats to hunt, and a flying mantid will land or change its flight pattern if it hears such sounds (Yager 1999). (Hurd, 1999; Yager, 1999)

Food Habits

The Carolina mantid usually uses a "sit-and-wait" tactic of obtaining its prey. It waits quietly, and attacks any insects that come near, grabbing them with it's forelegs. Often it will wait near a flower and attack the insects that come to the flower to feed. Occasionally mantids will stalk prey, but this is not common. Ants are one of the prey types that S. carolina will sometimes chase (Preston-Mafham 1993). This species, like all mantids, is cannibalistic. Mantid nymphs and adults will eat other. (Hurd, 1999)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

This species consumes many insects, including a large number that are agricultural pests. It is widely sold for use in gardens, though the effectiveness of mantids as biological control agents is not known. (Hurd, 1985)

  • Positive Impacts
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Mantids eat all kinds of insects and spiders, some of which are themselves beneficial, including useful pollinators like bees and flies, and spiders that attack aphids. (Hurd, 1999)

Conservation Status

The Carolina Mantid is common insect in the United States. (Lyon 2000)

Other Comments

The common name comes from the Greek word "mantis" which means prophet. They are always in a striking position with their arms folded in prayer.

Praying mantises occur all over the world, and there over 1000 species that vary widely in size and appearance.

In the United States, mantids are most commonly seen during September and early October, when they are largest, and most actively pursuing reproduction.

In the northern U.S. the commonly seen mantids are two introduced species: the Chinese mantid, Tenodera aridifolia, and the European mantid, Mantis religiosa. (Lyon, March 22, 2000; Teyssier, Jul/Aug '97)


Sara Diamond (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Asael Paredes (author), Southwestern University, Stephanie Fabritius (editor), Southwestern University.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


union of egg and spermatozoan


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


offspring are all produced in a single group (litter, clutch, etc.), after which the parent usually dies. Semelparous organisms often only live through a single season/year (or other periodic change in conditions) but may live for many seasons. In both cases reproduction occurs as a single investment of energy in offspring, with no future chance for investment in reproduction.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


Hurd, L. 1985. Ecological considerations of mantids as biocontrol agents. Antenna, 9: 19-22.

Hurd, L. 1999. Ecology of Praying Mantids. Pp. 43-60 in F Prete, H Wells, P Wells, L Hurd, eds. The Praying Mantids. Baltimore, Maryland, USA: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Lutz, F. 1948. Field Book of Insects. New York: Putnam.

Lyon, W. March 22, 2000. "Praying Mantis" (On-line). Accessed April 15, 2000 at

Preston-Mafham, R., K. Preston-Mafham. 1993. The Encyclopedia of Land Invertebrate Behaviour. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Price, P. 1984. Insect Ecology (2nd edition). New York: Wiley-Interscience.

Teyssier, J. Jul/Aug '97. The Devil's Riding Horse. Canadian Geographic, 117: 44-50.

Yager, D. 1999. Hearing. Pp. 93-113 in F Prete, H Wells, P Wells, L Hurd, eds. The Praying Mantids. Baltimore, Maryland, USA: Johns Hopkins University Press.