The large Praying Mantis (not 'Preying' although it does that very well) got its name from the position of its forelegs. When resting, these front legs are held in a way that makes them seem folded in prayer. Those powerful front legs are able to hold down an insect as the mantis eats it alive. The mantis' mouth parts are capable of cutting through the tough exoskeleton of their insect prey. Females are known to cannibalize their males after mating with them, but occasionally that does not happen.
Mantises are greatly beneficial in gardens and should be left alone to do their work. They eat a large volume of pest insects and can be a farmer/gardener's best friend in removing infestations of wasps and beetles. A Praying Mantis (or its eggs) can even be purchased in the spring to head off any pest growth come summer. Larger species of the Mantis family have even been known to eat frogs, lizards and sometimes even hummingbirds.
Females lay their flat, seed-shaped eggs on a twig in autumn. The freshly laid eggs are then coated with a hard foam that maintains moisture during dry winters and deters birds and other insects from bothering them as well. In spring, the eggs hatch and pale nymphs, shaped like miniature adults emerge and immediately begin feasting on smaller insects and sometimes each other.
Catching a glimpse of a Praying Mantis is a special thing, but leave it where you found it (if it hasn't flown away). It hunts all day long, feeding a king-size appetite. Capturing mantises to keep a as 'pet' will kill it. Mantises eat non-stop, all day long. People couldn't feed them as often as they would require in order to avoid starvation. Mantises do not 'look' hungry, but they always are. For the benefit of the ecosystem, simply look and leave them alone.
Common name: Praying Mantis
Scientific Name: Mantis religiosa
Other Names: European Mantis, Mantid
Adult Size (Length): 50mm to 65mm (1.97in to 2.56in) COMPARE
Identifying Colors: green, yellow, white, red, brown
General Description: praying, long, stick
North American Reach (Though Not Limited To*): Alabama; Alaska; Arizona; Arkansas; California; Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; Florida; Georgia; Hawaii; Idaho; Illinois; Indiana; Iowa; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Minnesota; Mississippi; Missouri; Montana; Nebraska; Nevada; New Hampshire; New Jersey; New Mexico; New York; North Carolina; North Dakota; Ohio; Oklahoma; Oregon; Pennsylvania; Rhose Island; South Carolina; South Dakota; Tennessee; Texas; Utah; Vermont; Virgina; Washington; West Virginia; Wisconsin; Wyoming; Alberta; British Columbia; Manitoba; New Brunswick; Newfoundland and Labrador; Nova Scotia; Ontario; Prince Edward Island; Quebec; Sasketchewan
* Keep in mind that insect reach is not governed by lines on a map and therefore may appear in areas/regions/states beyond those listed above.