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The Incomplete Metamorphosis of Mantids

#funfactfriday There are so many cool species of insects in the Okanagan and Similkameen but some of the coolest have to be Mantids! Did you know that Mantids don't have a pupal stage and hatch out of their egg looking like teeny tiny versions of their adult form?

Photo by Claudius Valentik via iNaturalist

In most insect families, eggs hatch into larvae/pupae stage and then eventually metamorphose (transform) into an adult once they have grown a bit. We see these larval/pupal stages when we see things such as cocoons, maggots, or aquatic larvae such as mosquito larvae. When insects like mantids go from egg straight to adult, it is called incomplete metamorphosis.

In place of this pupal stage, a 'baby' mantid just continues to grow in its adult form, shedding its exoskeleton for a larger one whenever it gets big enough. Each of these 'in-between' sizes is called an instar and each instar will have better-developed wings and reproductive organs than the one before it until the final adult stage is reached and the mantid is fully formed. The Carolina Mantis above (a cousin to the mantids found here in BC) will eventually grow to be 2.5 inches long!

Photo from the USNPS

Female Mantids lay they eggs in a large mass called a ootheca. It is initially soft so that it can stick to the structure the female laid it on, often tree branches, rocks or other solid objects. Oothecas are laid in the fall and the eggs They will lay their eggs in the fall and the young will stay in the egg case throughout the winter until spring. Mantids are voracious predators of many pest insects and are not known to bite humans, so if you see one of these papery cases in your yard this winter, leave it alone! Your future vegetable garden will thank you!


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