* The word mantis meant "diviner" to the ancient Greeks; they believed the praying mantis had supernatural powers.

* Two modern superstitions: The saliva of a praying mantis can cause blindness (it doesn't), and a mantis will kill the horse that eats it (it won't).

* With eyes that stare and look around, the mantis can turn its head in a wide arc, as if to look over its shoulder.

* The praying mantis is a cousin of the cockroach; in fact, it may be considered a predatory, carnivorous cockroach. (Along with insects, it has even been known to eat frogs, birds and mice.)

* Entomologists are trying to get rid of the word "mantis" and standardize the term "mantid," a contraction for the family Mantidae to which it belongs.

* There are two common local species: the Carolina, 3 to 4 inches long, and the Chinese, 5 to 6 inches long and one of the largest in the 1,500 species of mantids.

* The first severe fall frost wipes out the adults; the eggs winter over. A new generation hatches in April or May and molts several times before reaching adulthood in late July.

* At most the praying mantis lives a year, but it might live longer indoors.

* If you want to keep a praying mantis for a few days, use a gallon-size jar with holes in the lid. Put in a piece of cotton soaked with water, to give it something to drink. Feed it insects (no live ants or wasps). Put a stick in the bottle; it likes something to climb up and sit on.