Sometimes referred to as The poster child of beneficial insects the Praying Mantid (more commonly referred to as a Praying Mantis or Chinese Mantis) is carnivorous and enjoys a diet of mites and other pesty insects and their eggs.
It is unknown whether Praying Mantis were introduced on purpose or arrived accidentally, however, on the Big Island they can be found from sea level all the way up to 7,000 feet. The one pictured here posed for us at 4,050 feet above sea level, near the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.
While normally around 5 inches long and 3 inches high, the ones we have seen and much larger, 6 inches or more. They range from light tan to browns and have bright green, thick, and veiny wings.
The Praying Mantis will fly if provoked enough but normally prefers to crawl around stalks. It will then sit very still, with their front legs held in a praying position (hence the name Praying Mantis) waiting patiently for a bug to crawl or fly by. When a tasty morsel does venture near the well-camouflaged Mantis, the front legs shoot out at high speed and grab the unfortunate victim.
Mantis are usually born in the spring and live only one season. The head of the mantis is very unusual in that it can swivel 180°. Indeed, this Mantis, though sitting motionless, kept turning his head to keep me directly in the middle of its gaze while I walked all around it. The Mantis never took its eyes off of me.