Tenodera aridifolia

Geographic Range

The Chinese mantid, Tenodera aridifolia, is native to Asia, specifically Japan, India, and Indonesia. It was introduced to the United States by humans in the late 1800s and now is common throughout the United States, especially the eastern United States and California. Today, T. aridifolia can be found throughout most of Asia; it also has been introduced into Australia. It is common throughout the Oriental and Nearctic regions. (Hurd, et al., 2004; Jensen, et al., 2009; Mazer, 2004)


Tenodera aridifolia is the most widespread and abundant mantis species in temperate zones. This species usually is found in grasslands, meadows, agricultural fields, woodlands, and adjacent to rivers and streams. It is common in humid habitats. Tenodera aridifolia inhabits a broad range of land in various stages of succession, most commonly in old-field ecosystems. It spends much of its time on herbaceous plants and woody shrubs and also can be found near flowers. (Beckman and Hurd, 2003; "Chinese Mantis", 2012; Maxwell, et al., 2010; Mazer, 2004; Watanabe, et al., 2011)

Physical Description

Tenodera aridifolia is approximately 7 cm in length and weighs an average of 3 grams. It has a tan, brown, or occasionally pale green cuticle, with the exposed edge of the forewings creating a green stripe on the side of the body. The head is triangular and can swivel a full 180 degrees, and it has very large eyes. As in all other mantis species, its first pair of legs is modified into a folded pair of arms that are used to grab prey. Sexual dimorphism is prevalent in T. aridifolia, with the females measuring 10 cm or more in length, which is about 2 cm longer than the males. ("Chinese Mantis", 2012; Iwasaki, 1996; Jensen, et al., 2009; Kaltenpoth, 2005; Maxwell, et al., 2010; Mazer, 2004)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Average mass
    3 g
    0.11 oz
  • Range length
    5.08 to 12.7 cm
    2.00 to 5.00 in
  • Average length
    7 cm
    2.76 in
  • Average wingspan
    4 cm
    1.57 in


Like all mantises, Tenodera aridifolia undergoes hemimetabolous development (incomplete metamorphosis). It progresses from an egg to the larval form (which is called a nymph), and then develops into an adult. Eggs are laid on plants in a protective case called an ootheca. The ootheca material is produced from a pair of accessory reproductive glands and originates as a froth before hardening to form a protective case. The eggs begin to develop immediately after oviposition within the ootheca, until the cold weather triggers dormancy. The eggs overwinter until temperatures become warmer. Not including overwintering, eggs hatch after about 6 weeks of development in early spring. Nymphs grow through as many as 7 instars before developing wings and becoming adults in late summer. Adults reproduce and survive until the first frost. (Hurd, et al., 2004; Iwasaki, 1996; Lelito and Brown, 2008; Watanabe, et al., 2011; Yato, et al., 1990)


Male Chinese mantids mate repeatedly and fertilize multiple females when possible. Females also mate with multiple males, despite usually laying only one ootheca (egg case), and the different eggs within a single ootheca may have multiple fathers. Because only males fly, the males actively seek mates and are guided by long-distance pheromones from up to 100 m away. To attract males, a female flexes her abdomen, which exposes her abdominal pheromone glands. Males are more attracted to virgin females, suggesting that females decrease their pheromone emission and other behaviors after their first mating. When courting, males exhibit behaviors such as pumping their abdomens up and down and wiggling from side to side. They approach females directly from the front or from behind. Females also may approach males, although rarely, and actively participate in courtship, showing such behaviors as stroking the forelimbs of the male. (Lelito and Brown, 2006; Lelito and Brown, 2008; Maxwell, et al., 2010; Watanabe, et al., 2011)

Tenodera aridifolia is one species of mantis that strongly exhibits sexual cannibalism, wherein the female eats the male during or after copulation, often beheading him. Cannibalism is beneficial to the female because she can obtain food by eating her mate. When prey is scarce and females are hungrier, they are more likely to cannibalize their mate. Hungrier females will even make predatory strikes toward males before copulation occurs. It is likely due to the threat of cannibalism that when males approach females head on, they exhibit more cautious behaviors and move much more slowly than males approaching from behind. These differences in courting behavior according to risk level are thought to involve pheromones or behavioral indicators from the female.

Sexual cannibalism may provide some benefits to the male, as well. Males can continue copulating after they have been beheaded, though they cannot mount new females on their own. Cannibalism may result in prolonged copulation, ensuring an increased transfer of sperm and possibly preventing other males from mating with the female. (Lelito and Brown, 2006; Liske and Davis, 1987; Watanabe, et al., 2011)

Tenodera aridifolia begins mating 8 to 10 days after its final molt, in the late summer or early fall. It can continue breeding until it dies during the first frost, usually in the late fall. In general, Tenodera aridifolia is univoltine and semelparous, although its reproductive strategy can vary geographically. Female Chinese mantids usually lay only one ootheca (egg case), but the mantids at lower latitudes (where the climate is warmer and the breeding season is longer) can produce multiple oothecae if the temperatures remain high enough later in the year. A single ootheca can contain anywhere from 50 to several hundred eggs. If a female produces multiple oothecae, she can lay around 600 eggs during the breeding season. Females produce smaller egg cases when prey is a limiting resource, but the mantis species that cannibalize their mates (including T. aridifolia) lay larger oothecae and produce more offspring. Oothecae can weigh up to 1.5 g, which represents half the weight of a female, indicating a significant energy investment. Eggs overwinter and hatch in the spring. More males usually are born than females, though this ratio is reversed later in life due to sexual cannibalism. (Hurd, et al., 2004; Jensen, et al., 2009; Lelito and Brown, 2006; Lelito and Brown, 2008; Liske and Davis, 1987; Watanabe, et al., 2011)

  • Breeding interval
    Chinese mantids breed whenever possible during their few months of adulthood
  • Breeding season
    Late summer until early winter
  • Range eggs per season
    50 to 600
  • Average eggs per season
  • Average gestation period
    2 months
  • Average time to independence
    at birth, 0 minutes
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    6 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    6 months

Parental care in Tenodera aridifolia is limited to the female creation of the protective ootheca in which the eggs can safely develop prior to hatching. Females provide a significant energy investment by carrying the eggs and creating the ootheca, which they lay on plants in locations where conditions will prevent desiccation. After the eggs are laid, the adults provide no further care or protection. Males either leave or are killed after mating and provide no care. Because adult Chinese mantids die when the first frost occurs, they cannot provide any parental care for the nymphs that will hatch the following spring. (Iwasaki, 1996; Lelito and Brown, 2008)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female


Tenodera aridifolia generally can be expected to live 6 to 9 months in the wild. Eggs hatch in the early spring when temperatures warm up, and adults die during the first frost. Because its birth and death largely are dependent on environmental temperatures, its lifespan can vary by latitude. The highest mortality rates occur just after T. aridifolia hatches in the spring, before arthropod prey becomes abundant. Because prey can be scarce in the home range of T. aridifolia, nymphs and adults often die of starvation. About 90% of Chinese mantid nymphs die before reaching adulthood. They are especially prone to desiccation. The number of males in a population, and the lifespan of males, are significantly lower due to sexual cannibalism by females. (Hurd, et al., 2004; Iwasaki, 1996; Lelito and Brown, 2008)

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    6 to 9 months
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    6 to 9 months


Tenodera aridifolia is a ferocious solitary predator, and many studies have investigated its complex hunting behavior. The large eyes of T. aridifolia allow it to hunt prey primarily by vision, a tactic enhanced by its ability to swivel its head in any direction (fully 180 degrees).

Chinese mantids also can detect immobile prey by olfaction. The hunting strategy of the adults is to perch motionless atop tall plants, grasses, or in tree branches–-ideally, any place with a clear view of the surroundings. As potential prey moves past (anything from other insects to small birds), T. aridifolia quickly darts out in a lunge and grabs the prey with its folded arms. The prey collides with the femoral spines of the mantis forearms, and then the mantis tibias close to grasp the prey. Mantises hold their prey in their forearms while they feed, and the prey may still be alive as the mantis begins to eat.

Tenodera aridifolia is mostly flightless, though males fly short distances occasionally. Females do not fly, despite having wings. These mantids do not fly in pursuit of prey; instead, by waiting among tall plants, they can use their modified front legs to grab or spear the prey that flies past. Chinese mantids are active mostly during the day. (Beckman and Hurd, 2003; "Chinese Mantis", 2012; Hurd, et al., 2004; Mazer, 2004; Prete, et al., 2011; Yamawaki, 2011)

  • Range territory size
    2 to 4 km^2

Home Range

Because only Tenodera aridifolia males can fly, and then only a limited distance, the size of its territory mainly is restricted to the distance that both the males and females walk. It is generally safe to assume that oothecae (egg cases) located at least 2 to 2.5 km away from each other were laid by different females. The territory of T. aridifolia is estimated to be about 4 km^2; however, territories likely overlap. (Hurd, et al., 2004; Watanabe, et al., 2011)

Communication and Perception

Like all mantises, Tenodera aridifolia has high visual acuity. It detects other Chinese mantids and its prey visually. It has strong tracking abilities due to its large eyes and the mobility of its head. Adult females emit pheromones that are detected by males looking for mates, likely through receptors on the antennae of the males. Some tactile communication has been observed between males and females during courtship, such as the female stroking the raptorial forelimbs of the male. Nymphs also have been observed using their antennae to detect pollen grains, likely through a combination of tactile and chemical sensing. Adults can detect immobile prey by olfaction. (Beckman and Hurd, 2003; Liske and Davis, 1987; Maxwell, et al., 2010; Prete, et al., 2011; Yamawaki, 2011)

Food Habits

Tenodera aridifolia is a generalist predator. It usually eats anything it can catch, preferring other arthropods (particularly insects and spiders). Adult females have been known to catch small reptiles, amphibians, and the occasional hummingbird. Their prey is limited only by what they can catch. Chinese mantid nymphs will eat pollen to survive in times of low prey availability, while adults will eat pollinator insects that are covered in pollen, also ingesting the pollen. Adults sometimes will eat solely pollen in times of limited prey. In addition, adult females sometimes practice sexual cannibalism. (Beckman and Hurd, 2003; "Chinese Mantis", 2012; Hurd, et al., 2004; Prete, et al., 2011)

  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • amphibians
  • reptiles
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • Plant Foods
  • pollen


Tenodera aridifolia is prey to a variety of animals, including reptiles, birds, and primates. When faced with a bird or lizard predator, T. aridifolia exhibits defensive behavior and posture, including a display called the deimatic response. The display includes elevating the prothorax, raising the wings, extending the back legs to the side, twisting the abdomen, and swaying violently from side to side. The Asian giant hornet, Vespa mandarina, also has been known to prey on Chinese mantids, though the mantids can fight back and often prey on the hornets instead. (Balderrama and Maldonado, 1971; Handwerk, 2012; Yamawaki, 2011)

Ecosystem Roles

Tenodera aridifolia is a fierce predatory species. It has the potential to significantly affect other arthropod populations and can sufficiently keep prey populations in check. While adult females often catch small vertebrates, they are unlikely to catch enough to influence vertebrate population size.

Tenodera aridifolia serves as prey for a variety of larger animals, including reptiles, birds, primates, and the Asian giant hornet, Vespa mandarina.

As an introduced species, T. aridifolia competes with other mantis species in the United States and can threaten native mantis populations. ("Chinese Mantis", 2012; Handwerk, 2012; Hurd, et al., 2004; Yamawaki, 2011)

Species Used as Host
  • None
Mutualist Species
  • None
Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • None

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Tenodera aridifolia was introduced to the United States by humans in 1896 as a form of pest control. Today, Chinese mantids still can be purchased to reduce pest populations in gardens or agricultural fields. They also can be kept as pets, as they are mostly harmless to humans and are very easy to care for. They can be kept in a medium- to large-sized aquarium and need to be fed live insects every other day or so. Oothecae (egg cases) are available for purchase in pet or gardening stores. ("Chinese Mantis", 2012; Hurd, et al., 2004)

  • Positive Impacts
  • pet trade
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

If provoked, Tenodera aridifolia can bite or pinch a human being. Usually, it focuses on prey items and ignores humans, and it even can be handled without concern. Harm to humans is very rare but possible. ("Chinese Mantis", 2012)

  • Negative Impacts
  • injures humans
    • bites or stings

Conservation Status

Tenodera aridifolia has no special conservation status. (Mazer, 2004)


Angela Miner (author), Animal Diversity Web Staff, Elizabeth Wason (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.



Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

World Map


living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.


having coloration that serves a protective function for the animal, usually used to refer to animals with colors that warn predators of their toxicity. For example: animals with bright red or yellow coloration are often toxic or distasteful.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


a period of time when growth or development is suspended in insects and other invertebrates, it can usually only be ended the appropriate environmental stimulus.

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


union of egg and spermatozoan


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.


the state that some animals enter during winter in which normal physiological processes are significantly reduced, thus lowering the animal's energy requirements. The act or condition of passing winter in a torpid or resting state, typically involving the abandonment of homoiothermy in mammals.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.


A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.


chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


offspring are all produced in a single group (litter, clutch, etc.), after which the parent usually dies. Semelparous organisms often only live through a single season/year (or other periodic change in conditions) but may live for many seasons. In both cases reproduction occurs as a single investment of energy in offspring, with no future chance for investment in reproduction.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5? N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


uses sight to communicate


Conservation Commission of Missouri. 2012. "Chinese Mantis" (On-line). Missouri Department of Conservation. Accessed February 24, 2012 at http://mdc.mo.gov/node/2938.

Balderrama, N., H. Maldonado. 1971. Habituation of deimatic response in the mantid (Stagmatoptera biocellata). Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 75: 98-106.

Beckman, N., L. Hurd. 2003. Pollen feeding and fitness in praying mantids: The vegetarian side of a tritrophic predator. Environmental Entomology, 32/4: 881-885.

Handwerk, B. 2012. "'Hornets From Hell' Offer Real-Life Fright" (On-line). National Geographic. Accessed February 23, 2012 at http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/10/1025_021025_GiantHornets.html.

Hurd, L., R. Mallis, K. Bulka, A. Jones. 2004. Life history, environment, and deme extinction in the Chinese mantid Tenodera aridifolia sinensis (Mantodea: Mantidae). Environmental Entomology, 33/2: 182-187.

Iwasaki, T. 1996. Comparative studies on the life histories of two praying mantises, Tenodera aridifolia (Stoll) and Tenodera angustipennis Saussure (Mantodea: Mantidae). 1. Temporal pattern of egg hatch and nymphal development. Applied Entomology and Zoology, 31: 345-356.

Jensen, D., G. Svenson, H. Song, M. Whiting. 2009. Phylogeny and evolution of male genitalia within the praying mantis genus Tenodera (Mantodea: Mantidae). Invertebrate Systematics, 23: 409-421.

Kaltenpoth, M. 2005. Life history and Morphometry of the Chinese Praying Mantis, Tenodera aridifolia sinensis (Blattopteroidea: Mantodea). Entomologia Generalis, 28/1: 1-16.

Lelito, J., W. Brown. 2008. Mate attraction by females in a sexually cannibalistic praying mantis. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 63/2: 313-320.

Lelito, J., W. Brown. 2006. Natural history miscellany - Complicity or conflict over sexual cannibalism? Male risk taking in the praying mantis Tenodera aridifolia sinensis. American Naturalist, 168/2: 263-269.

Liske, E., W. Davis. 1987. Courtship and mating behaviour of the Chinese praying mantis, Tenodera aridifolia sinensis. Animal Behavior, 35: 1524-1537.

Maxwell, M., K. Barry, P. Johns. 2010. Examinations of Female Pheromone Use in Two Praying Mantids, Stagmomantis limbata and Tenodera aridifolia sinensis (Mantodea: Mantidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 103/1: 120-127.

Mazer, C. 2004. Chinese Mantid. Pp. 185-186 in M Hutchins, A Evans, J Jackson, D Kleiman, J Murphy, D Thony, eds. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, 2 Edition. Detroit, MI: Gale Group.

Prete, F., J. Komito, S. Dominguez, G. Svenson, L. Lopez, A. Guillen, N. Bogdanivich. 2011. Visual stimuli that elicit appetitive behaviors in three morphologically distinct species of praying mantis. Journal of Comparative Physiology A-Neuroethology Sensory Neural and Behavioral Physiology, 197/9: 877-894.

Watanabe, E., T. Adachi-Hagimori, K. Miura, M. Maxwell, Y. Ando, Y. Takematsu. 2011. Multiple Paternity Within Field-Collected Egg Cases of the Praying Mantid Tenodera aridifolia. Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 104/2: 348-352.

Yamawaki, Y. 2011. Defence behaviours of the praying mantis Tenodera aridifolia in response to looming objects. Journal of Insect Physiology, 57/11: 1510-1517.

Yato, M., S. Hitoshi, S. Oshima, H. Kawasaki. 1990. Enzymic activities involved in the oothecal sclerotization of the praying mantid, Tenodera aridifolia sinesis saussure. Insect Biochemistry, 20: 745-750.