Skip Navigation

University of Nebraska–Lincoln

UNL Extension in Lancaster County

Can You Guess It?? Feature

This page was updated on October 19, 2007

Helping Nebraskans enhance their lives through research-based education.


The Can You Guess It?? photo shown above is featured in the November/December 2007 Nebline Newsletter

ANSWER: Chinese Mantid Egg Case

About the Photo:

Chinese Mantid

Mantids ("Praying Mantis") have one generation each year. The female dies after producing eggs in the fall. In the Chinese mantid egg case above (called an ootheca), there are nearly 200 eggs. The texture of the ootheca is like styrofoam. The eggs overwinter and hatch the following spring, most of the eggs in the ootheca will hatch at once. The young praying mantis (called nymphs) do not wander far from their original hatching site. Few will survive as they also prey on each other.

The Chinese mantid (photo right) was introduced to the United States from China in the 1800's to help control pest populations. It is a common site in areas of the eastern United States, but this impressive mantis has also been surprising some Lancaster County, Nebraska residents. They appear in gardens and you may see them on buildings. Females do not fly, but males may fly short distances.  And since, these mantids don't fly more than a few feet from their original place of birth, humans have spread these mantids through egg cases transported on vehicles and nursery stock. They are also sold through the mail as a way to help control insect pests.

Chinese mantids dwarf our native praying mantis. These large mantids grow up to five inches in length and can vary in color from brown to green.

Like all praying mantids, they are impressive predators. While our smaller native mantids, feed on a number of insects, Chinese mantids have taken larger prey.

According to the University of Arkansas:

"Chinese mantids are opportunistic, generalist predators, taking virtually anything they can overpower, mostly other insects.  In the entomological literature, there are at least two believable reports of Chinese mantids capturing and consuming vertebrates in captivity (soft-shelled turtle) and in the more natural setting of a flower garden (whitefooted mouse).  In the latter case, a 3.0 to 3.5 inch mouse was captured by a mantid, which then began to consume the living mouse, starting at the nose and working back, eating hair, bones, and other tissues along the way.  In the ornithological literature there are a least two reports of mantids, presumably Chinese mantids, capturing hummingbirds.  Chinese mantids are well camouflaged and probably invisible to visually-oriented prey.

"In some areas, the Chinese mantid is no longer considered beneficial because it feeds on many desireable native insects, including butterflies and native praying mantids."(source: Univ of Kentucky Dept of Entomology)

Learn More:

Photos and Resources: For information on reproducing resources or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement)