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(or Mantoptera), an order of predatory insects closely related to roaches. The most characteristic feature of Mantodea is the arrangement of the front pair of legs, which are armed with strong spines used to grasp prey. The prothorax is very elongated, and the head is very mobile, allowing the insect to follow the movements of its prey. The wings are usually fully developed; in several species they are either rudimentary or absent. The body color of many Mantodea imitates the color of the environment and can change during a season—for example, in connection with the drying up of the plant cover. Mantodea primarily inhabit tropical and subtropical countries. More than 2,000 species are known, and there are about 20 species in the southern USSR. The most widely distributed species is the praying mantis (Mantis religiosa); its body is 4–7 cm long.
Mantodea are typical ambushing predatory insects, lying in wait for their prey with their front legs raised (hence the name “praying mantis”). They feed on various insects; several tropical species sometimes attack small vertebrates (lizards and birds). Mantodea’s role as a destroyer of harmful insects has not been sufficiently investigated. Several species are pernicious because they eat useful insects such as bees and chalcid flies.
REFERENCESBei-Bienko, G. Ia. “Otriad Mantoptera (Mantodea, Mantoidea) —bogomolovye,” Opredelitel’ nasekomykh evropeiskoichasti SSSR, vol. 1. Moscow-Leningrad, 1964. Pages 170–173.
G. IA. BEI-BIENKO