Today we caught another large, female Mantis religiosa — this one from the west end of Briones Regional Park, rather than the northeast corner — and introduced her to two males in one of our cages. Even though she promptly ate a grasshopper, she was still hungry enough to eat one of her potential suitors who was unwise enough to get in front of her.
This is a danger for male mantids — they need to approach carefully to avoid being mistaken for prey. Male spiders have the same problem. A male M. religiosa carefully approaches the female from behind, always watching which way she turns her head. If she looks towards him, he freezes until she looks away again. When he gets close enough, he leaps onto her suddenly, and clasps her with his legs, holding on to her back in a place she can’t easily bite him.
The second male in our cage didn’t seem put off by watching his fellow male get eaten. In fact, he used the distraction provided by her munching the other male to move in and mount her himself.