It’s a cool summer evening. A female praying mantis sits motionless in a bush. She has been here for a long time now. Her thin, green body blends in with the leaves around her. Her long arms are folded neatly together in front of her. T wack! She turns her head toward the
sound. A large cricket made the noise as it landed on the bush. T e cricket begins to nibble the edges of the bush’s leaves. It is not aware of the killer on the branches below it. T e praying mantis waits for the cricket to
come to her. T en the praying mantis lashes out with her front legs. She moves twice as fast as the blink of an eye. Rows of sharp spikes on her front legs spear
the cricket. T e cricket kicks wildly to escape. It can’t. T e praying mantis has it pinned down. T en she leans forward and chomps off the cricket’s head. T e cricket stops moving. T e praying
mantis eats her meal peacefully. As fierce as praying mantises are, they
are not without enemies. T e praying mantis finishes her meal and is ready to rest. Yet an Asian giant hornet has other plans for her. T e giant hornet is a mantis killer. T e praying mantis sees the hornet coming.
She spreads her wings to make herself seem larger. T e praying mantis liſt s her front legs and waves them in a threatening way. T e hornet comes closer. T e praying mantis hisses.
herd: a group of animals of one kind
instinct: a behavior an animal is born with
predator: an animal that kills and eats other animals
prey: an animal hunted or caught by another animal for food
T e hornet charges. T e praying mantis
reaches out her front legs to grab the hornet with her pinchers. T ey bounce off the hornet’s tough exoskeleton. T e hornet wriggles free. T e hornet flies over the praying mantis.
T en it dives down and stings the praying mantis on the back. It stings again. T is is one of the hornet’s best weapons. It can strike over and over without losing its stinger. At the same time, the hornet bites the
praying mantis. Its jaws are like steel cutters. T e praying mantis bucks and kicks. She tries to flip the hornet off of her back. T e hornet bites and stings until the praying mantis stops moving. Moments ago, the praying mantis was the predator. Now, the predator is the prey. T e praying mantis, the crocodile, and the
great white shark are some of the most feared predators in the animal kingdom. No matter how good a hunter these animals are, though, they don’t always catch their prey. And in some cases, they end up becoming prey.
A praying mantis holds still as it looks for prey.
8 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORER 8
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