Praying Mantis Info
Hi. I was wondering what kind of praying mantis this is and do you know if it’s a male or female? If it’s a female is she pregnant?
I believe your mantis is Iris oratoria, the Mediterranean Mantis. Surprisingly, although diversity of mantises is low in North America, there are several large-bodied species that are extremely difficult to distinguish without observing the specimen in hand. In your photo I think I can just barely make out a pair of small spines just below where the antennae are attached, which is diagnostic for this species. This is certainly a female. Females of many mantises, this species included, have short wings that don't reach the end of the abdomen. I can't say for sure, but it is quite possible this female is gravid (carrying eggs) since the abdomen is a bit distended and fall is the time of year they form their oothecae (frothy cases containing eggs).
Incidentally, the Mediterranean Mantis is not native to California nor North America, but was introduced here sometime during the 1930s; it has been spreading across the Southwestern U.S. ever since. Unfortunately, these are generalist predators that will eat just about any small critter they can grab, and at the same time they seem to crowd out our native mantises. However, none of this detracts from the spectacle of personally encountering one of these amazing members of our insect "megafauna"!
Thanks for sharing,
Schlinger Chair and Curator of Entomology Matthew L. Gimmel, Ph.D.