There are many different types of praying mantises that come in all different sizes. In total, there are over 2300 different species of praying mantis. The majority live in tropical rainforests all around the world, but some species live right among us in the garden, the neighborhood, or the nearby trees and fields.
Depending on various factors such as species, nutrition, environment, and age, praying mantises can come in many different shapes and sizes. The largest praying mantis ever recorded was over 7 inches (18cm) long. The largest species are the Chinese Mantis (Tenodera Sinensis) and the African Mantis (Sphodromantis viridis).
When praying mantis are born, they can be as tiny as a pinhead. They molt several times, and after their final molt, they reach their final size. Females are generally much larger than males.
The Biggest Praying Mantis Species around the World
There are some praying mantis species that are known for their particularly large females.
The species with the largest individuals that were discovered are the
- Tenodera Sinensis (Chinese Mantis)
- Sphodromantis Viridis (Giant African Mantis)
- Hierodula Membranacea (Giant Asiant Mantis)
- Hierodula Majuscula (Giant Rainforest Mantis)
- Idolomentis Diabolica (Devil’s Flower Mantis)
- Deroplatys Desiccata (Giant Dead Leaf Mantis)
Tenodera Sinensis (Chinese Mantis)
The Tenodera Sinensis is commonly known as “Chinese Mantis” because it was originally native to Asia, specifically to China, Japan, and Korea. Nowadays the Chinese Mantis can be found in many Asian countries as well as North America.
This species is known to reach more than 4.3 in (approx. 11 cm). The largest praying mantis that was ever officially recorded was a Chinese Mantis with more than 7 in (approx. 18cm) in length. That does not mean that there are no bigger praying mantises out there, it just means that they were either not found yet or simply not recorded.
As a kid, I spend a lot of time in the countryside of Miyazaki, Japan, where my grandparents lived. It is very warm and humid in the south of Japan which makes it perfect for many kinds of insects to thrive. While playing hide-and-seek with my friends, I saw huge praying mantises sitting right next to me in the fields. In my memory, they were at least 8 in (approx. 20cm) big. Which is not totally unrealistic by the way.
The Sphodromantis Viridis is commonly referred to as “Giant African Mantis”, “African Mantis” or “Bush Mantis”. But the name “African Mantis” is also commonly used for many other praying mantis species that can be found in Africa, therefore the official, scientific name “Sphodromantis Viridis” is the better option if you want to make sure, you are talking about the same insect.
The females of this species can grow up to 3.9 in (approx. 10 cm) in length which makes them only a bit smaller than the Tenodera Sinensis, the “Chinese Mantis”.
Idolomantis Diabolica (Devil’s Flower Mantis)
The beautiful Idolomantis Diabolica is commonly referred to as “Devil’s Flower Mantis”. It is one of the praying mantis species that mimic flowers (just like for example the popular, but way smaller Orchid Mantis) and is probably the largest species with that characteristic. Females are known to grow up to 5.1 in (approx. 13cm), and males up to 3.9 in (approx. 10 cm).
Hierodula Membranacea (Giant Asian Mantis)
The Hierodula Membranacea is commonly referred to as the “Giant Asian Mantis”.
The females can grow up to 3.9 in (approx. 10 cm). This species is very popular as pets because they are easy to care for and easy to breed and make great beginner pets in general. It is probably one of the best-known species for pet keeping in the praying mantis world.
Hierodula Majuscula (Giant Rainforest Mantis)
The Hierodula Majuscula is commonly referred to as the “Giant Rainforest Mantis” and is closely related to the Hierodula Membranacea as they both belong to the Hierodula family. This praying mantis is native to the Australian rainforests and is known for their large size and vibrant light green colors.
The females of the Hierodula Majuscula species can reach around 3.5 in (approx. 9 cm) which makes them only slightly smaller than the Hierodula Membranacea.
Deroplatys Desiccata (Giant Dead Leaf Mantis)
The Deroplatys Desiccata is commonly referred to as “Giant Dead Leaf Mantis” and (like the name suggests) is one of the fascinating species that mimics dead leaves. It is native to the southeast of Asia and the females usually grow up to 3.2 in (approx. 8 cm), while the males are slightly shorter.
Factors Affecting the Size of Praying Mantis
The most important factors affecting the size of a praying mantis are the species, the environment they live in, the nutrition, the gender, and the age.
Very well-known species (that are often kept as pets) are the Ghost Mantis, the European Mantis, the Chinese Mantis, and the Orchid Mantis. While the Ghost Mantis and the Orchid Mantis are rather small species (around 2 – 2.5 inches on average = 5 – 6,35cm) the Chinese Mantis is one of the largest species in the world.
The tiniest species that was discovered so far is the Bolbe pygmaea which is endemic to Australia. It only grows up to 0.4 inches (approx. 1cm).
Depending on the species, every praying mantis species thrives under specific conditions. The majority of praying mantis species need very high humidity and a rather high temperature to survive, which is why they can only be found in tropical rainforests.
But not only temperature and humidity have a big influence on whether a praying mantis can grow to its maximum potential or not. Factors such as pesticides, the availability of food and water, potential predators, and climate change can have a big influence on the development of a praying mantis.
Just like most living creatures, praying mantis need proper nutrition to grow to their full potential. They are carnivorous insects and hunt smaller insects, reptiles, amphibians, and even small mammals.
For most praying mantis species, the females grow much larger in size than the males. The females also live longer than the males. When it comes to the maximum size that a praying mantis can reach, you will have to look at the females.
Praying mantis are born out of so-called oothecae. Oothecae are structures made of a type of foam with many eggs inside that the female praying mantis creates. The foam hardens and builds a safe space for the eggs to develop until the baby praying mantis hatch.
Praying mantis are tiny when they hatch and they grow with every molt. The number of molts can vary. Some species molt only 5 times, while others molt up to 10 times, before reaching their final development stage and final size as an adult. A lot of praying mantis species develop wings in their very last molt. This is how you can see if a praying mantis has already reached its final size.
For some species the final size can be reached within a few weeks, other (usually larger) species take up to 6 months to reach adulthood.
Want to know more about praying mantis and their behavior? You can find plenty of information here!
Lisa is one of the two founders of Animal-Knowledge. She has been very interested in animals and insects from a very young age and has owned different kinds of pets such as snails, ants, fish, turtles, mice, rats, hamsters, rabbits, a dog, … you get the idea 🙂