Praying mantis sex and violence

August 24, 2006 | By | 5 Replies More

OK, so ten years ago I had this idea of writing a short story about a high school attended by praying mantises.   The prom was coming up and many of the boy mantises were nervous.  Actually all of them except for a reticent bespectacled boy mantis named George who had defiantly announced that he wasn’t going to the prom, no matter what anyone said about it.

But most of the boy mantises were nervous. Why? Because they were worried that the girl praying mantis they asked out would turn them down? 

No.  Actually, it was because the girl mantis might accept.   It had become somewhat of a tradition at praying mantis high schools (unlike at fundamentalist schools) that going out with any girl might actually lead to something sexual.  Rumors were flying that, at the previous years’ prom, many of the mantis girls were eating the mantis boys.  No, I’m not talking about that.  Here . . . I’ll show you a lurid photo (from The Dance of Life, by Mark Walters (1988):

praying mantis.jpg

As you can see from the text, it can get really crazy for praying mantis “boys.”  As Walters writes, a female might take the lead.  She might even eat the male’s head before he has mounted her.   “Mommy, tell me about the night that I was conceived . . . please.” 

“Aw, gosh,” the mommy mantis might think.  “When that little mantis looks at me with those cute little mantis eyes, I just can’t resist telling that story.”   Well, actually, maybe I’ll let Walters tell it in his own words:

[Even though she has bit his head off before he has mounted her], the pre-programmed movement of his legs will carry his body in a circular path until it rests against her.  The headless, thoroughly uninhibited insect then climbs onto the female’s back and copulates.  Not only may the loss of the male’s head greatly increase his chances of impregnating the female by relieving him of his inhibitions, it may increase the survival rate of the offspring by providing the female with a good meal . . .”

I’ll resist asking the fundamentalists who might read this whether it is moral for a female praying mantis to do this or whether this kind of sex proves the existence of an intelligent designer.   I just don’t know the answers to these questions.  Some things just are, it seemsSometimes I think this about many human activities that all too many people all too readily judge.  Many things just are.

I don’t really have a point to this post.  Perhaps mantis sex can serve as a metaphor for something.  Perhaps I’ll blame Grumpy posting on war versus sex a few minutes ago.  For some reason, that post reminded me of sex and violence.  Whatever.  Mantis sex is something that’s long fascinated me.  No, I don’t subscribe to Playmantis and I don’t hang around those mantis sex chatrooms.  Really.  Really.

I don’t know how things turned out at the prom at the Praying Mantis Central High School.  I never did write that story.  Maybe I should.  How would it look on the big screen?


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Category: Psychology Cognition, Religion, Science, Sex

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (5)

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  1. Artemis says:

    Although I have long been aware of the head-biting phenomenon with female praying mantis and their sexual partners, I didn't have all the details and specifics. Thank you, Erich, for providing them.

    Nature is very expedient and efficient in the sense that the male's head provides nurishment for the the female.

    But what I got out of it was that it primarily keeps the male "rocking and rolling" against the female for much longer than he could if he still had his brain.

    In this case, Nature seems to have provided the female praying mantis with a guaranteed good time during sex.

    To be fair, perhaps there is some weird sort of pleasure that the male receives at the moment he loses his head….??

    I guess only the mantis knows for sure.


  2. John D. - new design says:

    Interesting. Perhaps the implications of this posting will reach beyond the intended range.

    I think I have seen a documentary on this; the male having its head bitten off and such…

  3. Deb says:

    More proof of human animals being more highly evolved: in our species, it isn't necessary to bite the male's head off to get better sex. Or am I just fooling myself?

  4. Jennifer says:

    I think I went to that high school.

  5. Dan says:

    I've read in a Stephen Jay Gould column (sorry, don't remember which) that this head-biting behavior only occurs in captivity; it's never been observed in the wild. This may be why smart teens typically leave the confines of the prom before initiating the horizontal dance.

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