Mantis (Fabr.; Gr. , a soothsayer), a genus of orthopterous insects of the group of graspers (raptoria). In the best known species, M. religiosa (Linn.), the head is triangular, the eyes large, the prothorax very long, and the body narrowed and lengthened; the anterior feet are armed with hooks and spines, and the shanks are capable of being doubled up on the under side of the thighs. When at rest it sits upon the four posterior legs, with the bead and prothorax nearly erect, and the anterior feet folded backward; from this singular attitude it is called the praying mantis or soothsayer (the prie-Dieu of the French). The insects are slow in their motions, waiting on the branches of trees and shrubs for some insect to pass within their reach, when they seize and hold it with the anterior feet, and tear it to pieces. They are voracious, sometimes preying upon each other; they are beneficial to man in destroying caterpillars and other insects injurious to vegetation. The eggs are deposited in two long rows, protected by a parchment-like envelope, and attached to the stalk of a plant; the nymph is as voracious as the perfect insect, from which it differs principally in the less developed wings.
They are most abundant in the tropical regions of Africa, South America, and India, but are found in the warmer parts of North America, Europe, and Australia. In the south of France it was once a popular belief that this insect, if spoken to, would point out the way to a lost child, and in central and south Africa it is still regarded with veneration. The American spe-cies is the M. Carolina.