In temperate regions like the USA praying mantis mate in the summer. After a successful mating an adult female praying mantis will then continue laying eggs until her eventual demise in the fall.
The praying mantis life cycle is a fascinating one. Praying mantis start to hatch in the spring when the weather warms up. Praying mantis are amazing predators, capable of catching surprisingly large prey items.
Thanks to their insatiable appetite the hatchling praying mantis grow rapidly, going through a number of moults. Every time the praying mantis changes its skin, it will get noticeably larger. These moults can occur every few weeks in smaller mantis.
Only when a praying mantis passes through its final moult is it finally mature and ready to mate. Mantis that haven’t reached their adult moult don’t mate, and the females don’t produce eggs.
Typically, the mantis hatches in spring, but it will take some months until the praying mantis reach adulthood. This normally coincides with the hot summer months, although there may be some variation.
If the weather has been bad, then praying mantis may reach adulthood – and so mate – later on in the year. In these situations praying mantis may mate in the fall.
On the other hand, an early heatwave may encourage praying mantis to eat more, grow faster and so mate earlier in the summer months than normal.
What Happens When Praying Mantis Mate?
Praying mantis are perhaps best known for their habit of eating their mate. However studies in the wild have shown that not all males get eaten. In fact, some studies have found that more males survive than are actually eaten.
The mating process of praying mantis is quite fascinating. Once they are ready to mate, female praying mantis seem to produce a chemical signal that attracts adult males from the surrounding area. Adult male praying mantis can fly, so they may travel some distance to find a receptive female.
The male praying mantis will approach the female slowly. He wants to stay out of arm’s reach as long as possible. When the time is right he jumps onto the female’s back. Mating normally starts soon afterward.
Mating involves the male and female mantis curling their tails around one another till they make contact. The pair may stay “locked” together in this way for anything from a few hours to 24 hours or more.
Even if the female manages to start eating the male, mating can continue on.
Eventually, assuming the male has survived his ordeal, he carefully jumps off the female and makes his escape. A male praying mantis that survives may go on to mate with other females, further increasing the chances of passing on his genes to the next generation.
Why Does a Praying Mantis Kill Its Mate?
While praying mantis don’t always eat their mate, it does of course happen on a regular basis. It is most likely that the female praying mantis is making the most of a potential extra meal. By eating the male praying mantis she’ll have more nutrients that she can put to use when producing eggs.
In this way, while it is a shocking end to the males life, he may help the female to produce more young. In doing so, his genes have a greater chance of survival to the next generation.
How Long After Mating Does a Praying Mantis Lay Eggs?
Praying mantis don’t become “pregnant” in the traditional sense. Unlike mammals, there is therefore no fixed period of time between mating and laying eggs. Instead, the female will only lay eggs when the conditions seem right and she successfully finds a suitable place to leave them.
In broad terms it can take a female mantis a few weeks after mating before she starts to lay eggs. In that time she will normally continue to feed, getting ever more rotund, and this ensures she has plenty of energy for the complex process of egg production and laying.
What is more, a female praying mantis may lay multiple egg cases over her remaining life, even without mating with any more males. Laying different egg cases ( known as oothecae) over an extended period of time means at least one should survive the tough winter months to hatch out successfully the following spring.
How Long Do Praying Mantis Live?
Most praying mantis die in the winter. From hatching to death can take as little as six months in some species. For this reason it is important that the female mantis mates as early as possible in the year, so that she can produce as many oothecae as possible.
A female that matures later in the year – and so mates later – may be unable to produce as many eggs as other females. As the temperatures drop in fall and winter she is likely to die in most cases.