Interesting facts: In South Africa, the Khoi and San tribes call the praying mantis Hottentotsgot (Afrikaans speaking South Africans use the same name), which means God of the Bushmen.
There is also an African belief that a mantis landing on a person is an omen of good luck.
The praying mantis is totally carnivorous, eating mainly insects such as butterflies, moths, crickets, grasshoppers and flies. Very large species have been seen to catch small lizards.
They are also cannibalistic, not averse to eating members of their own species. They generally use coloration for camouflage, swaying silently in the breeze as they wait for their prey to move as close as possible; then, with lightning speed, they grab the insect and hold it with the hooked spines on their front legs, finally killing it with a lethal bite to the head.
There are approximately 2000 species of Mantis, all of which live in temperate and tropical regions of the world. There are over 200 species found in sub-Saharan Africa alone.
Their scientific name, mantodea, translated from Greek, means prophet. The insects are colloquially called praying mantis due to their characteristic pose which so closely resembles a person with their hands clasped in prayer. However, because they are really predatory creatures, their name is sometimes incorrectly spelled as preying mantis.
THE STORY OF MANTIS, OSTRICH AND FIRE
In addition to life, Mantis also brought the first fire to the people.
Before this, they ate their food raw, just as they killed it, like the leopard and the lion, and they slept in their shelters at night, with no cheering light to brighten the long dark hours.
Mantis had noticed that whenever Ostrich went to eat, his food smelt different and delicious.
So one day he crept close to Ostrich to observe him as he ate.
He saw Ostrich furtively take some fire from beneath his wing, and dip his food into it. When he had finished eating, he carefully tucked the fire back under his wing, and walked off.
Mantis knew that Ostrich would not give him any fire, so he decided to make a plan.
One day he went to visit Ostrich. ‘Come,’ he called, ‘I have found a tree with delicious yellow plums on it.’
Ostrich was delighted. He began to eat the plums that were easiest to reach.
‘No, higher, higher! The best ones are right at the top,’ Mantis urged him.
As Ostrich stood up on tiptoe and spread his wings to balance himself, Mantis snatched some of the fire from beneath his wing and ran off with it.
This was how he brought fire to the Bushmen.
Since then, Ostrich, terribly ashamed, has never flown and keeps his wings pressed to his sides, to preserve the little fire he has left.
According to the Bushmen, the ostrich has always been rather an odd fellow.
When the female makes her nest in a hollow in the warm sand, she lays 20 to 30 round, creamy eggs, but invariably leaves one outside. Why?
Because she and her husband are so busy brooding on the theft of their fire, that they can be very absent minded.
She is even liable to forget she is sitting on a clutch of eggs, and so she puts one the outside of the nest, just to remind herself and her husband, that they have eggs in the nest..
`Most of our praying mantis are green or brown, to see the ones turn into a variety of colours is most unusual and this share is from my garden.