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What is the bug that looks like a praying mantis but brown?

There are a few different bugs that resemble praying mantises in appearance but are brown in color instead of green. The most likely culprits are various species in the insect order Mantodea. While praying mantises are typically green, there are some brown species that could be mistaken for their more familiar green cousins at first glance. With over 2,400 species worldwide, mantises exhibit a wide range of shapes, sizes, and colors. In this article, we’ll examine a few of the most common brown, mantis-like insects that may cause confusion.

Stick Insects

One possibility is a stick insect from the Phasmatodea order. There are over 3,000 species of stick insects, also called walking sticks, around the world. Many of them resemble twigs or branches, providing excellent camouflage in their natural habitats. While some stick insects are green, several brown species could potentially be mistaken for a praying mantis based on their elongated bodies, spiny legs, and the way they hold their front legs in a prayer-like manner.

Some examples of brown stick insects that fit this description include:

Brown argentine stick insect (Cladomorphus phyllinus) – Native to South America. Grows 3-4 inches long. Overall brown coloration with small spikes on the legs.

Brown musk stick insect (Phasma gigas) – Found in Australia. Can reach 5 inches long. Light brown with dark striping on legs and thorax.

Himalayan stick insect (Carausius morosus) – Originally from Southeast Asia but now found worldwide. Grows 2-3 inches long. Reddish-brown color with black and white markings.


Of course, there are also many species of mantises that are various shades of brown instead of the typical green. Several of these brown mantis species could potentially be mistaken for their green relatives by the untrained eye. A few examples include:

Ghost mantis (Phyllocrania paradoxa) – Found in Africa. Features very thin, elongated front legs and a pale brown color that provides camouflage.

Dead leaf mantis (Deroplatys desiccata) – Native to Southeast Asia. Has leaf-like lobes on its legs and body that blend in with dried leaves. Light brown in color.

Ground mantis (Litaneutria minor) – Native to North America. A small species, only 1.5 inches long. Brown coloration with patterns that resemble dirt or bark.

Here is a table comparing some physical traits of these brown, mantis-like bugs:

Species Length Notable Features Location
Brown argentine stick insect 3-4 inches Spiky legs, elongated body South America
Brown musk stick insect Up to 5 inches Striped legs and thorax Australia
Himalayan stick insect 2-3 inches Reddish-brown with markings Asia
Ghost mantis 2-3 inches Slender front legs, pale brown Africa
Dead leaf mantis 2-3 inches Leaf-like lobes for camouflage Southeast Asia
Ground mantis 1.5 inches Bark-like brown patterns North America

Distinguishing Features

While they may look similar at a glance, there are a few key features that can help distinguish stick insects from mantises:

Antennae – Stick insects have very long, thin antennae that are at least as long as their entire body. Mantises have shorter, thicker antennae that are a fraction of their body length.

Front legs – A mantis’ front legs are very specialized for grabbing prey, with sharp spikes and a greater range of movement. Stick insects’ front legs look more uniform with their other legs.

Body shape – Mantises tend to have a thicker thorax and triangular heads. Stick insects have a more consistently cylindrical, elongated body shape throughout.

Behavior – Mantises are ambush predators that actively hunt prey. Stick insects are herbivores that mostly rest motionless while eating leaves.


These insects’ preferred habitats can also provide clues for identification:

Mantises are usually found on branches, tall grasses, or shrubs where they can easily spot potential prey. Some ground-dwelling species live among low vegetation.

Stick insects cling to branches high up in trees and shrubs to blend in. Many species prefer dense woods or forests.

Take note of where exactly you spot the insect. If it’s on a low plant rather than hidden high up in a tree, it’s more likely to be a mantis. The habitat can help narrow down the possibilities.


While praying mantises get all the attention, there are a diverse array of lesser-known brown insects that resemble them, particularly stick insects. Look closely at key features like the antennae, front legs, body shape, habitats, and behavior to properly discern if that mysterious brown bug is a mantis or different species entirely. Proper identification provides insight into the insect’s life cycle, diet, habitat preferences, and more. With over 4,000 mantis and stick insect species found worldwide, keeping an eye out for key distinguishing characteristics is essential for budding entomologists seeking to solve bug mysteries.