Praying Mantis in New Zealand


New Zealand Praying Mantis (Orthodera novaezealandiae) and South African Praying Mantis (Miomantis caffra)

The oldest known fossil remains of a mantis so far found is 87 million years old.
This is the Cretaceous period before the extinction of the dinosaurs.
There are currently over 2,400 species known worldwide.
Only two are found in New Zealand.
Of those only one is native, the other is an invader from South Africa that was first found in Auckland in 1978.
Since that time it has steadily made its way south displacing our native as it goes.
This article is about how to identify the two species.

There are 2 main differences in the appearence.
Body shape:

New Zealand Praying Mantis, Orthodera novaezealandiae

New Zealand Praying Mantis, Orthodera novaezealandiae

New Zealand Praying Mantis (Orthodera novaezealandiae)

The area between the front legs is as wide as the head and tapers gradually back to the waist.
They are usually green very rarely yellow.

South African Praying Mantis (Miomantis caffra)

 

The body section between the first two pair of legs is narrower than the head
They are green to pale brown and often larger than the NZ mantis.

South African Praying Mantis, Miomantis caffra

South African Praying Mantis, Miomantis caffra

South African Praying Mantis, Miomantis caffra

South African Praying Mantis, Miomantis caffra

 

Eye patch on the inside of the forelegs:

New Zealand Praying Mantis, Orthodera novaezealandiae

New Zealand Praying Mantis, Orthodera novaezealandiae

New Zealand Praying Mantis (Orthodera novaezealandiae)

The bright blue and purple patch on the inside of its front leg clearly distinguishes it from the South African species.

See the image above for a South African.

Ok so now you know how to tell these two mantids apart.

New Zealand Praying Mantis, Orthodera novaezealandiae

New Zealand Praying Mantis, Orthodera novaezealandiae

Would you like to know the sex of any mantid you find ?
Just count the abdominal segments.
Female mantis generally have 6 and males 8, it’s a good guide for sexing young mantis that you find.

 

 

 

 

Here are a few more comparison facts.

The new Zealand mantis can fly. The SA mantis doesn’t fly.
The female NZ mantis vary rarely eats the male after copulation. The SA female mantis often eats it’s partner.
Generally the NZ mantis can be found on the top side of a leaf. The SA mantis usually will lurk on the underside of a leaf.
The NZ mantis doesn’t overwinter. The SA mantis can overwinter in warmer climates.

 

South African Praying Mantis, Miomantis caffra

South African Praying Mantis, Miomantis caffra

Research

There has been research done into the pheromone attraction of the NZ mantis male to the SA female.
Not good news for the NZ male,
“Holwell and his colleagues at the University of Auckland in New Zealand have been testing which species is most attractive to male native mantises. Given a choice between females of their own or the invasive species in a Y-shaped maze, the males approached invasive springbok mantises more than 80 percent of the time. Mantis females commonly use pheromones to attract males, and the researchers suggest that the New Zealand and South African species may use the same pheromones. Such interspecies attraction has been seen before in other praying mantises.

Next, the team allowed males and females to mingle on a nice leafy branch. Female springbok mantises ate nearly 40 percent of males of their own species, and nearly 70 percent of native New Zealand males. Males that weren’t eaten tried to mate with the females, more evidence of their attraction. The results are reported November 26 in Biology Letters.”

That’s from
https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/gory-details/cannibalistic-mantis-invades-new-zealand-eats-natives

To finish off lets have a look at the differences in the ootheca of the two species.
Like the mantis they are both easily recognisable.

 

 

New Zealand Praying Mantis, Orthodera novaezealandiae

New Zealand Praying Mantis, Orthodera novaezealandiae

New Zealand Praying Mantis, Orthodera novaezealandiae

A New Zealand Praying Mantis, Orthodera novaezealandiae ootheca.
This has been laid in the lichen Xanthoria parietina

New Zealand Praying Mantis (Orthodera novaezealandiae)

The NZ mantis has a neat darker compact ootheca

South African Praying Mantis (Miomantis caffra)

The SA mantis looks like foam when laid, often with a blueish tinge.
The real give away is the SA mantis has drawn out ends on the ooth.

South African Praying Mantis, Miomantis caffra

South African Praying Mantis, Miomantis caffra

South African Praying Mantis, Miomantis caffra

South African Praying Mantis, Miomantis caffra

 

So where is this all leading to ?
The SA mantis is not widely distributed in the South Island at all, let alone the ChCh region.
They are certainly round the Nelson region.
There are reports of it becoming established at Lyttelton.
Remember they can’t fly so if we can catch them early we can limit their spread.
Currently they are unknown from Travis Wetland.
We do have a population of the NZ mantis here and would like to keep it that way.
If you find any South African mantis there please squish them or if you’re unsure of id let a ranger know or contact the trust via our contact form and let us know where you found them, someone will go and have a look.