The praying mantis is a familiar insect commonly seen in late summer and fall. It has a long body (about 7.5 cm, or 3 inches, in length), wings folded along the back, and two pairs of long legs used for walking or running. The front legs are modified into prey-grasping structures held in a position that reminds some people of prayer, and thus the common name. The head is triangular in shape and possesses large compound eyes. In contrast to most species of insects, the mantis can move its head around freely – about 180 degrees. This allows the mantis to look for prey, or danger, without having to move its green or brown camouflaged body. It can be an ambush predator, waiting for prey to move within striking distance, or it can run quickly to attack. The front appendages, known as raptorial legs, are used to seize prey. When at rest these legs fold into a “jackknife” position, but they are extended with amazing speed to grab prey. Spines along the leg help to hold captured prey. The mantis usually feeds during the day, but also will come to forage around artificial lights at night (usually these are adult males). Although some prey are stalked by the mantis, most are taken by “head-on” ambush. The mantis immobilizes captured prey by chewing on the neck first. Foods consist mostly of soft-bodied insects such as flies and moths. Often, a mantis will wait on a flower for insects that come for nectar. On occasion, a mantis may even capture and feed on a hummingbird that has come to a flower! A hungry female sometimes eats the head off of the male while they are mating. This cannibalistic behavior supposedly gives her a meal, and therefore energy for the fertilized eggs she soon will lay. Eggs are laid in a frothy material that eventually hardens into a foam-like structure called an ootheca that is attached to surfaces such as buildings or branches. The young all hatch at about the same time, looking like miniature adults. These young may begin to feed on each other, so it is useful for them to disperse quickly after leaving the ootheca. The praying mantis is considered to be a useful garden animal to help control other insects, so there is a market for them and their eggs. They generally do not bite humans, damage furnishings, or spread diseases.