Back to Order: Mantophasmatodea home page
are carnivores, capturing fairly small insect prey such as book lice
(Psocoptera), flies (Diptera), plant hoppers (Hemiptera) and other insects with
the enlarged forelegs, which are thickened and armed with spines (as are the
midlegs). The eyes are very large, and the prey is stalked before capture.
Most of the South African species are nocturnal, but it is reported that
at least some of the Namibian species (Sclerophasma) are diurnal. The
former spend the daytime hours hidden at the base of tussock plants (grasses or
restios), roaming the surface of the plant during the night to capture prey.
They also occur in low shrubby vegetation, such as mesems.
to mating, both males and females communicate via tapping the abdomen against
the substrate, making an audible sound. The communication may be heard, but
since there are no obvious ears on these insects, it is likely that the signals
are vibrational. Females tap with a lower frequency than males.
male mounts the females very rapidly, gripping her back with his first and mid
pair of legs, and extends his abdomen down the side of the female in an “s”
shape. The cerci of the male are used as claspers to bring the genitalia of the
sexes close together. At this stage the very large copulatory organ of the male
is expanded, and inserted into the female genital tract (vagina). Mating is
prolonged, lasting for 1-3 days. In captivity males are frequently eaten after
mating, but this may be an artifact of the confinement of the pair in small
bodies of Heelwalkers are very flexible, and they are capable of bending their
abdomens around under their bodies in order to groom all parts, something they
do frequently. Special attention is
paid to grooming of the enlarged pad (arolium) at the end of the last tarsal
segment. Both of these structures are always held up in the air, hence the
common name of Heelwalkers for the order.