mantis mantis It's no coincidence that authors and artists liken these insects to femme fatales. (Photo: Jack Guez / Getty Images)

7 super powers of the praying mantis

If humans were endowed with powers like these ... look out, world.

The praying mantis featured above may look cool and artsy casting its shadow on a table in the Israeli Mediterranean city of Netanya. But make no mistake: he is quite powerful, and he doesn't have all of Superman's ethics to hold him back. These bugs have crazy impressive, crazy creepy skills. If they ever decide to take over, watch out.

They can camouflage themselves to look like fiery destruction

bush fireTo a mantis, this looks homey. (Photo: VanderWolf Images/Shutterstock)

During the end of the dry season in Africa and Australia, bush fires frequently occur. Some local mantis species can turn black to blend in with the fire-ravaged landscape.

There are also "flower mantises" that can mimic flowers to attract prey coming to collect pollen and nectar. And there's something doubly creepy about a murderous flower.

They can twist their heads like the girl in 'The Exorcist'

This is some horror movie stuff: some species of mantis can rotate their heads nearly 180° to scan their surroundings with their two large compound eyes and three other simple eyes located between them. When these insects are watching you, they're really watching you.

The ancients believed they had powers

pyramidsThe ancient Egyptian "Book of the Dead" said mantises could lead souls of the dead to the underworld. (Photo: Dudarev Mikhail/Shutterstock)

Lots of ancient civilizations believed mantises had supernatural powers, including Greece, Egypt and Assyria. The southern African Khoi and San traditions considered them gods, and ancient Mediterranean peoples called them necromancers.

They've got sonar

Bats in flight. They "hear" echolocation using an auditory thoracic organ. (Photo: Daniel Pink/Flickr)

Some mantises can detect the echolocation sounds bats make. When flying mantises hear these sounds increasing rapidly, they know that a bat is approaching and they start spiraling toward the ground for safety, often doing some cool aerial loops and spins in the process.

If a bat does manage to catch a mantis, the insect slashes it with its raptorial legs. Bat rule #1: Never attack something with raptorial legs.

They eat animals that should be eating them

Some larger mantises eat lizards and frogs, animals that usually eat bugs and probably never expected the tables to be turned on them. Mantises have even been recorded scooping goldfish out of fishbowls and eating them.

They taught our martial arts masters how to fight

Northern Praying MantisWesterners have started learning these strategies in the last few decades too. (Photo: TunedIn by Westend61/Shutterstock)

Martial artists learn from these insects. Two separate martial arts developed in China feature movement and fighting strategies based on mantis movements. They're referred to as "Northern Praying Mantis" and "Southern Praying Mantis" and are quite popular in China.

The women practice sexual cannibalism

While locked in lovemaking, female praying mantises sometimes use a great move to turn their men on: they bite off the males' heads and eat them.

Some scientists theorize that, by biting off the males' heads, the female bites off the part of the male brain that controls inhibition. Once his head is gone, the male loses his inhibitions and continues mating with renewed excitement.

Or maybe the lady's just hungry. That's why you gotta buy her dinner first, guys.


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7 super powers of the praying mantis
If humans were endowed with powers like these ... look out, world.