My mom had a friend over the other day who discovered a praying mantis in our living room. She calmly asked my mom for a paper towel, and used it to pick up the critter. Mom thought her friend was going to release it outside, but instead the woman crushed it in her paper towel and threw it in the trash.
If I had been there I would have screamed.
Mom, possessing better manners than I, and still a bit stunned, said nothing. We don’t kill praying mantises here. We treasure them. If we find them around the yard, we pick them up and take them to the garden. They have a voracious appetite for the bugs that do the most garden damage. Just last week I found this gal chomping on juicy tomato worm. A worm that had already stripped 3 or 4 leaves from my one tomato plant.
Mantises are well known for eating their own, as well:
Across the eastern United States, a gruesome ritual is in full swing. The praying mantis and its relative, the Chinese mantis, are in their courtship season. A male mantis approaches a female, flapping his wings and swaying his abdomen. Leaping on her back, he begins to mate. And quite often, she tears off his head.
The female mantis devours the head of the still-mating male and then moves on to the rest of his body. “If you put a pair together and come back later, you’ll just find the wings of the male and no other evidence he was ever there,” said William Brown, an evolutionary biologist at the State University of New York in Fredonia.
Source: New York Times, Sept 5, 2006
Last year I observed a small male mantis mating with a much larger female mantis in the garden. They went at it for at least 24 hours. By the second day however, the only thing left of the male that I could find was a single wing.
Anyway, gruesome realities of nature aside, praying mantises are highly beneficial insects. If you find one in your house, please don’t kill it, just capture it and let it go outside.