Other than those in the subfamily Amelinae, seven other species of mantid occur on the Iberian Peninsula. Amelinae is part of the family Mantidae which includes four other species. Within the subfamily Mantinae is the well-known Mantis religiosa, one of the largest species, and Sphodromantis viridis, sometimes known as the Large African Mantis, which will also grow to over 7cms in length. In the subfamily Miomantinae are Rivetina baetica and Geomantis larvoides. The remaining three species, each is the single representative of its family in Spain: Perlamantis alliberti, the smallest mantid of the region, belongs to the family Amorphoscelididae, Iris oratoria belongs to the family Tarachotidae and Empusa pennata belongs to the family Empusida. Recently a North American species, Brunneria borealis, Scudder, 1896 noted for being parthenogenic, was found in estuarine grassland near Barcelona [Fernández & Santaeufemia, Butlleti ICHN, 80, 2016]. This could well have been an accidental introduction from a boat. Also two African species of Miomantis have recently been found in Portugal: M. caffra, Saussure, 1871 from southern Africa and M. paykullii, Stal, 1871 from northern Africa [Eduardo Marabuto, Biodivers Data J. 2014]. These are more likely to be deliberate introductions.
Some general observations on Mantids
Mantids do not like to lay ootheca on very rough surfaces. This may well be the reason why those species that lay on stones are not usually found in the open Rosmarinus garrigue and woodland that grows on areas with a crumbly limestone or gypsum substrate. For instance, the hills north of Alhama de Granada are mainly composed of loose, sandy soils full of friable limestone. The predominant vetatation [in uncultivated areas] is of sparse Rosmarinus officinalis and Cistus clusii with scattered Quercus species in places. In this habitat mantids are very scarce with Ameles spallanzania the only species usually found.
Mantid ootheca will often hatch over several days with a proportion emerging each day. This may well maximise emergent survival. It is not unusual to find the ootheca of two different species, rarely three, laid under the same relatively small stone.
Empusa pennata (Thunberg, 1815)
This species is found in Italy, southern France, the Iberian Peninsula and across north-west Africa and on the Canary Islands. The males are 50-60mm long and the females 60-70mm. The genus has characteristically stick-like nymphs and a distinct horn-like structure on the crown of its head. It is found predominantly in habitats with patches of low to medium-height [10-100cms] scrub but can also be found in poorly grazed or ungrazed pastures and herbage, usually with some scrub. It has been found on lightly pine-wooded mountain sides up to 1650m asl but most commonly below 1000m asl. They will feed on flying insects like Diptera, Lepidoptera and Neuroptera, particularly slender ones with long legs or largish wings.
It has one generation a year in this area, overwintering as nymphs which can be seen during sunny weather in warmer periods of the winter when the ambient day-time temperatures remain at 15-20ºC and the night-time at 10-20ºC. During this over-wintering period the same nymphs can be regularly seen in the same square metre or two of vegetation [November–end of February]. They become fully active again in March when they may move to new patches of vegetation where they are again regularly seen and become adult during April May and early June. The ootheca, which have a characteristically long tail, are laid on plant stems. They are not very variable in size, normally about 10mm long and 4mm wide and beige with a cream dorsal stripe. Narrower and taller than similar Amelinae ootheca. The females pheromonally call at night and usually mate after midnight. No males have come to light.
The nymphs are normally brownish in colour, speckled darker but they can also be green and both brownish and green individuals can be found suffused with pink. All the adults I have seen are green but are usually suffused with pink in places. A male, mottled pink beneath, blended in with the reddish heads of flowing Bromus when resting upside down in a grassland canopy.
The nymphs rock in a rather haphazard-looking way as they move and at times when at rest. Movement is characteristically wind-motivated. On breezy days they move frequently, rarely staying still for more than a few minutes but on still days they stay still for much longer, often until a gust triggers movement. At times they will stay ‘frozen’ and allow themselves to be moved by the wind in association with the neighbouring vegetation. If two are placed together in a cage they will generally move apart but if one is too close to another they will perform ‘boxing’ movements with their forelegs. These movements differ from those of the Amelinae where the movement is initially forward in a horizontal plane. In the Empusa the tarsi initially moves upwards almost reaching the mandibles, then performing a forward and downward arc before moving back in again.
Iris oratoria (Linnaeus, 1758)
This species, which looks superficially like a smaller version of Mantis, usually 30-45mm in length. It is found around the Mediterranean basin, across North Africa and eastwards into Asia as far as northern India. However, unlike Mantis, the genus has strikingly patterned hind wings which they will use in deimatic displays – as shown on the home page. In this area its can be found in a wide variety of habitats from roadsides, cultivated margins and abandoned land, upland pastures and various scrub-based habitats. Most of the habitats have, at least, a scattering of scrub. The nymphs are found in tall grassland, herbage and low scrub but the adults will move up into taller scrub and trees. An exception to this is open pine woodland in the mountains where the light winter-grown sward amongst patches of Asphodel and Phlomus purpurea may be heavily summer-grazed by sheep or goats. Here Iris oratoria may be relatively common. It is frequently found in association with Mantis religiosa but has a narrower spectrum of habitats than that species, being normally associated with areas containing tall herbage. They have been found up to 1660m asl.
The adults are normally beige or mid-green in colour.
It has one generation a year in this area, overwintering as eggs. The eggs hatch in the spring and the nymphs become adult in late July and August. The adults been found into October. The ootheca are laid either under or quite frequently on the sides of stones and rocks, more rarely on plant stems. They avoid surfaces with a covering of lichens. They are normally at least 13mm long and 10mm wide [occasionally smaller] and grey in colour when unhatched [turning brown after hatching]. Smallest hatched ootheca may be told apart from the largest specimens of A picteti, with which they can be confused, being flatter and lacking the more strongly projecting top end of the A picteti ootheca. The males come readily to light early in the night.
Mantis religiosa Linnaeus, 1758
This is a cosmopolitan species found through much of Europe and Asia south of latitude 50º N, the whole of Africa. It is also common in parts of North America and mainland Australia after being introduced during the 20th century. It is common in my area of study. The males are usually 50-60mm long and the females 50-70mm.
The common colours of this species are green, grey or various shades of brown but pinkish individuals are also occasionally found and twice I have come across a bright yellow individual [see home page].
It has one generation a year, overwinters as eggs which hatch from late April through to early June. The nymphs are normally found within grassland, tall herbage or low scrub in a wide range of landscape habitats ranging from estuary floodplains, wasteland, roadsides, gardens and cultivated margins to woodlands and mountain slopes, but the adults will also move up into taller scrub and trees. I have found it from 3m to 1900m asl. The nymphs feed on a wide variety of insects and the adults will eat prey as large as big cicadas and Platycleis bushcrickets as well as bees and wasps. The ootheca are laid under objects which can be as diverse as stones, masonry, fallen branches, acanthine pipes, rusty coke cans, and wooden rails 30cms above the ground. They are variable in size normally ranging from 15mm x 10mm to 25mm x 15mm. The adults appear in August [rarely late July] and have be found into late November. The females take 25-40 days to become sexually mature after eclosion and then pheromonally call at night and mating usually takes place after midnight. Males are good fliers and will come to light occasionally.
Perlamantis alliberti Guerin-Méneville, 1843
This mantis grows to about 15mm in length and is found in Iberia and southern France and in north Africa from Morocco eastwards to Libya. I have only found this species in my garden. The males come very readily to light, rarely females, at times in quite large numbers. Repeated searches for them around the garden have only revealed one male - in leaf litter under Cistus and Lampanthus; I have been told that they can be found at the base of scrub. Released males with sit for many hours on tree trunks or at the base of scrub but no searches have revealed others in these places. They are very good fliers and will disappear high into the sky when released. Males when not totally quiescent will flicker their antennae for long periods [30+ minutes] and will also eat passing ants.
In the south of Spain, males appear at light in greatest numbers from mid-June through to the middle of July, disappearing by early August, but some years small numbers will appear again in late September and October. Females [virgin?] have only come to light in June. They are always dark brown in colour.
Geomantis larvoides Pantel, 1896
This species is found around the Mediterranean Basin from Turkey westwards to France, Spain and from Tunisia to Morocco. The males are around 20mm long and the females a little larger. It is widespread but local in central Iberia; in the south of its range it is found only in a few localities across northern and western Andalucía. It is a small species that runs about in rapid bursts across largely bare terrain and I have found it under open canopy mature pines with a very sparse understorey just north of the Embalse de la Fuensanta in southern Albacete and in cliff-top sandy clearings in the Pinar de Breña, Barbate, Cádiz. Also at near 1250m on open stony ground amongst low shrubs in Castellon. These mantids are rush and grab predators, on the ground or in low scrub. They often stand in the cover of some plant, high up on their mid legs with their forelegs tucked in, or they crouch low amongst plant debris on the ground. They have been seen to eat small insects: hemiptera, orthoptera, neuroptera and diptera.
It appears to have one generation a year with the adults found from June through to early August. The ootheca are attached to the axils of the thin stems of dwarf shrubs.
I have seen no attempts to cannibalise in this species despite the females having plenty of opportunity to catch a male. However, in both observed matings the male approached the female from behind. The stationary males rocked side to side just prior to moving in for the mating; jerky rocks about 1 second long and no more than 2mm to either side. One male curled its abdomen spirally a couple of times as he moved up to the female a few centimetres in front of him. Neither male ran at the females but moved up to them at a quick walking pace. As the males climbed onto the female's back they stroked her abdomen and then thorax with rapid flickering of the antennae. A minute or two prior to finishing the mating the thorax is again stroked in this way, and once mating has finished he immediately leaves the female. Mating lasted 60-120 minutes [x̅ = 92 mins, n=4].
Rivetina baetica (Rambur, 1838)
This species is found in the far south of Europe, across North Africa and the Middle East into eastern Asia. It is usually 50-65mm in length, the females a little larger than the males. It is locally common in the thermomediterranean zone of southern and eastern Spain where I have found it in hot and sunny, usually sandy habitats including fixed coastal dunes and sandy hills inland. It also occurs on some parts of south-eastern Spain farther inland as well as one site in central Spain. Where I have found it in stony areas, there are frequently areas of loose, bare soil. The habitats always have a reasonable covering of scrub and areas of open ground. In the Sierra de Baza it was common in the sandy Lygos scrub on the northern slopes but also in a rocky area on the south-facing side at 1650m asl. The nymphs are usually found running about on the ground amongst the scrub but the adults will also climb.
This species appears to be diurnal, feeding on flying insects like Lepidoptera and Neuroptera, moving up into scrub at night. It appears to have one generation a year with the adults appearing in July and August. Largish nymphs have be found in late April and May. The oothecas are laid within loose/soft soil. The female will dig a depression using a modified sub-genital plate [the underside of the genitalia] that carries two largish spines. She will make sweeping motions by curling her abdomen from side to side in order to excavate the hole. The ootheca is then laid and the site quickly filled in again and then swept smooth with the tarsi of an outstretched hind leg. A captive female took 2-4 hours to complete the digging, depositing the ootheca and infilling of the hole. Excavation started in the early evening, finishing after dark. Three ootheca were laid by one female and they ended up about 1cm below the surface though the hole was much deeper when fully excavated. They were 14-16mm in length.
Female digging pit to lay eggs in .
Sphodromantis viridis (Forskål, 1775)
This species occurs throughout Africa and neighbouring parts of the Middle East. The females can grow to 80mm and become very bulky but the males are smaller normally 55-65mm in length. In Europe it is only found in Sicily, in the southern half of Spain and Portugal. The adults of this mantis looks superficially like Mantis except for a large pale patch on each forewing. The nymphs differ in that they tend to curl their abdomens upwards whereas Mantis and Iris nymphs keep theirs in a horizontal position, level with the rest of the body. In Axarquía it can be found in area of maquis, tall garrigue up to 1100m asl, though the majority of records are from irrigated areas like parks, orchards and gardens.
This species has been found in green, grey and brown colour forms and the wing spot can vary in colour from white to pale brownish-grey.
It has one generation a year in southern Spain. It overwinters as eggs. The ootheca are laid on the twigs of shrubs and trees or the stems of herbs such as fennel or Crepis, normally those around about ½-1cm in diameter, sometimes near ground level but at times up to 150cms off the ground and once c3.5m up in the top of an olive tree. The ootheca normally vary from 25mm x 20mm to 30mm x 25mm in size and are a light muddy brown in colour. The eggs hatch in late May and June and the nymphs become adult during August and September. The nymphs in their early instars inhabit low scrub and herbage but move into higher vegetation during their middle instars and inhabit the canopies of tall scrub and small trees in their later ones and as adults. The adults of both sexes are usually found into November and females as late as mid-January. The females become sexually mature 30-40 days after eclosion and pheromonally signal at night. They generally mate after midnight and will stay coupled through the following day until dusk. Males are good fliers and will come to light occasionally.