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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/731

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THE MANTIS, OR PRAYING INSECT.

end of summer, in rounded, fragile shells, which it attaches to the branches of trees, and which do not hatch till the following summer. It differs in locomotion from its orthopterous relatives, which travel by jumps, while the mantis crawls so slowly that its progress can only be appreciated by careful and prolonged watching. This trait is connected with another character by which the mantis differs from the foregoing groups, for, while they are vegetarians, this insect is carnivorous, and its insidious movements are part of the policy by which it

PSM V04 D731 Praying mantis.jpg
Mantis Religiosa (Male).

captures the various creatures upon which it feeds. But the mantis is not only a carnivore which lives by killing and devouring other insects, it is also a creature of the most quarrelsome disposition; in fact, it is a ferocious cannibal. If two of these insects be shut up together, they engage in a desperate combat; they deal each other blows with their front legs, and do not leave off fighting until the stronger has succeeded in eating off the other's head. From their very birth the larvae attack each other. In their contests, the male, being smaller than the female, is often the victim. This pugnacity of the mantis is the source of amusement to children in China. Two mantids are shut up together in a bamboo cage, and the young heathen view with delight the inevitable battle, and the resulting cannibal feast.

And yet, while its inoffensive orthopterous brethren have got but little credit for their virtues, and are generally reviled as nuisances, this atrocious little savage has had the fortune to acquire a peculiar reputation for wisdom and saintliness. For thousands of years, and in all parts of the world, it has borne this character. The cause has been that it habitually assumes an attitude that appears devotional, and it was supposed to spend a large portion of its life in prayer. Settled on the ground, it raises its head and thorax, clasps together the joints of its front legs (see cut), and raises them as if in supplication, and remains in this posture for hours together. To our illogical and superstitious