Do Praying Mantis Sightings Have Meaning?

Some people think a praying mantis is good luck or a spiritual sign. Find out if seeing a praying mantis has meaning.

What Does It Mean When You See a Praying Mantis?

278220196 1 Marina Schultz Bnb Bypc 2021Courtesy Marina Schultz
Praying mantis perched on a zinnia

Does seeing a praying mantis have meaning for you? Spotting a praying mantis can be a reminder to be still, quiet and mindful. There is something rather mystical about an insect that can turn its head all the way around to get a better look at you.

A praying mantis can either be considered a sign of good luck or a bad omen depending on your cultural beliefs. The praying mantis is even Connecticut’s state insect. Learn more about the meaning of these garden insects.

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Praying or Preying?

Praying Mantis Looking Straightrocketegg/Getty Images
A praying mantis with folded front legs looks like it is “praying.”

People usually refer to any type of mantid as a praying mantis. These insects get their name from long front legs that they hold in a tight position in front of them, resembling hands held together in prayer.

However, the praying mantis is also sometimes referred to as a “preying mantis” because of its carnivorous habits. This insect is a predator and feeds on beetles, butterflies, grasshoppers and spiders. Tropical species can devour tree frogs. Will a praying mantis eat hummingbirds?

The front legs are designed to capture prey, and it can reach an extended distance to snag a target. A praying mantis spends time alone and still with a watchful eye and focus. It operates carefully, camouflaged in foliage, looking for a tasty insect meal among your flowers.

Gardeners and farmers will tell you the praying mantis is a welcome and beneficial insect, since it eats pests that may damage plants and crops.

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Is a Praying Mantis Good Luck?

Taken In September, Praying Mantis Is Posing. Used Apple IpadCourtesy Lorena Dunham
Praying mantis is a welcome bug that eats garden pests.

In some cultures, a praying mantis can be a sign of good luck or fortune.

Native Americans believe the insect came before the creation of man and Earth. Paintings, inscriptions, revered symbols and carvings have the insect depicted as a symbol. The bugs represent wealth, success, large families and the cycle of life.

The stealth movements of the praying mantis have made it a symbol of meditation and contemplation. In China, the insect has long been honored for its mindful movements. It never makes a move unless it is certain that is the right thing to do.

In Japan, a praying mantis is a sign of autumn. The bug is often portrayed with the typical gourds and mums that are popular in the season.

Additionally, the fragile looking insect is an emblem of military strength and courage in both China and Japan because it always moves forward to advance and never retreats.

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Is This Insect a Bad Omen?

praying mantisCourtesy Todd Merica
Some people think a praying mantis is a bit scary.

The praying mantis can also have negative meaning. Some cultures consider seeing one to be a bad omen, or even a bit frightening, since the female often devours her mate.

A well-known poem by Ogden Nash depicts the insect as a carnivorous character with a green grin.

These traits are perhaps why a praying mantis can also be a sign of misfortune. In Italy, a praying mantis may be seen as menacing—one wrong look can make you sick. In Japan, these bugs can may even predict your death.

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Spiritual Meaning

praying mantis meaningCourtesy Davida Douglas
Seeing a praying mantis has spiritual significance to some.

The praying mantis, with its “hands clasped in prayer,” lends itself to having spiritual meaning. For some, the spiritual significance of a praying mantis is one of reflection and thoughtfulness, and a reminder to always keep their focus on God. The praying mantis is even thought to have the ability to deliver messages from higher beings. These insects have also been called “praying nuns,” because some look like they are wearing nun habits on their heads.

Early Christian religious symbolism adopted belief in the praying mantis’s power of divination.

Praying mantis meaning is varied in Celtic symbolism and mythology. The insect can represent courage and persistence, as well as and prayer and religious beliefs.

The people of Ancient Greece and Egypt saw the praying mantis as a guide for those who needed direction, either in life or death.

In Buddhism, the praying mantis represents patience and perseverance. The insect’s predatory habits serve as a model for calm behavior and focus.

Shaolin monks developed a system of defense which was created as a form of protection. Their hand-to-hand combat movements are similar to the actions of the praying mantis.

Next, find out if hummingbird sightings have special meaning?

Alice Knisley Matthias
Alice Knisley Matthias writes about food, family, education, and garden. Her work appears in The New York Times, Washington Post, Food Network, Delish, The Kitchn and Parade. Her book about healthy kid snacks is published by Scholastic. Other work includes Woman's Day, Redbook, Highlights for Children, Boys' Life, Kids Discover and America's Test Kitchen Cook's Country Cookbook.