Litaneutria minor

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Agile Ground Mantis

Agile Ground Mantid
A female L. minor
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Mantodea
Family: Mantidae
Genus: Litaneutria
Species: L. minor
Binomial name
Litaneutria minor
Scudder, 1872

Litaneutria minor or the Agile ground mantis, is native to the Dryer regions of the United States. States known to have L. minors are: Colorado, Arizona to Mexico, and the eastern regions of Washington to California. They also can be found in Canada in the southern Okanagan Valley. They are very active hunters and will be seen running across the ground from early spring to late summer. [5]


Males and females obtain a length of about 30mm in the wild. The adults are usually dark grey or dark tan in color. Outer Ventral margin of fore femur has 4 spines, fore femur lacks grove typical to other mantids, long thin filamentous antenna. [5]


Males have 8 abdominal segments with a brown spot near the base of the forewings. Females have 6 abdominal segments with a rough pronotum and have no wings, usually showing wing pads however. Males appear to have much more developed wings than females, yet, do not fly. [4]

Hunting and Diet:

L. minors can be observed actively hunting on open ground during sunny days. Ground Mantids have only been observed hunting either on the ground or on small shrubs a few centimeters above the ground surface. As with all mintids, the front legs of L. minor are highly developed to grab and hold prey. The 4 spines on the fore femur and the spines on the tibia are developed to close on prey with lightning speed, holding prey in a vice grip, while the highly developed mandibles begin eating prey alive.

Nymphs can sometimes be cannibalistic as with most mantids, and begin hunting their first day. Young feed mainly on small flies, but as they grow, they will hunt down and attack anything that they can.

Typical food sources include: Moths, flies, grasshoppers, katydids and crickets. Ground mantids have been observed chasing down prey, this is not normal Praying Mantis “sit and wait” hunting behavior. [1] [3]

Mating and Reproduction:

L. minor is a solitary species and like most other praying mantises will only come together to mate. Particular mating times for this species is highly dependant upon both weather conditions for that year, and prey availability. Typically however it has been observed that females, 2 weeks after their last molt are most likely to accept a mate, and have a successful clutch.

Male Ground Mantids will detect a female by following a pheromone released by a sexually mature female. Once a male has located a female, he slowly approaches her, being sure to distinguish himself as a mate and not a prey item (at least not for now), and quietly hops on the females back. L. minor is an extremely aggressive species and the female may sometimes mistake the potential mate for prey, and attack and eat the male. Once successfully on the back of the female, the male L. minor will bend his abdomen down, attaching his spermataphore into the females spermatheca. Canabalism during mating can be observed in many different species of mantids (usually 6-30% of the time) and Litaneutria minor is no exception, with nearly all females eating the males head during mating. This unusually high percentage of cannibalism during mating is not common in most mantid species.

2 weeks after mating, the females lay egg cases known as ootheca on twigs and branches. The size of the ootheca is 5-10mm long, with each ootheca containing 10-20 eggs. The eggs lay dormant over winter, and if they survive, nymphs will start emerging from the ootheca in early spring [1] [2] [3]

Life Cycle:

Babies emerge from ootheca in the early spring and begin growing immediately. Females will molt approximately 7 times, with their terminal molts being in mid to late summer. Males will molt only 6 times and will have a terminal molt mid to late summer also. Babies and juveniles spend all spring and early summer catching as much prey as possible and growing in size.

Adults reach sexual maturity in late summer and will mate as soon as they are sexually mature. Females begin laying eggs in late summer and early fall, and will continue to do so until both they and the males die out during the fall months. Only the fertile eggs last the winter, with the next generation emerging the following spring. [1]

Defensive Strategies:

Litaneutria minor uses its small size and dark coloration as its best defense against predators. Because of its dark coloration, it easily blends in with the small rocks, broken twigs and dark vegetation found in its territory. Its small size easily allows it to quickly run and hide under rocks or dense vegetation. The Agile Ground Mantis is noted as being extremely aggressive, and has no problem defending itself against predators or unruly prey. It will extend its forearms out fully and stand as tall as possible to try and intimidate predators.

Many flying mantids have evolved a highly sensitive ear which is capable of detecting ultrasonic frequencies omitted from bats using echolocation. These ultrasonic frequencies range from 60-120 kHz and once detected by the mantis, the mantis can change its flight path into a series of random loops and twirls to try and evade the bat. L. minor however does not have a highly specialized ear and can only hear best at 30-50 kHz. This is because the mantis no longer has to use its ear to detect bats, because it no longer has the ability to fly. [1] [3]


  1. Wells,Prete and Hurd, Wells (1999) The Praying Mantids
  2. Ross, Herbert (1965) A textbook of Entomology. 3rd edition
  3. Stokes, Donald (1983) A guide to observing insect lives

External Links

Wikipedia [1]