|Oh honey, you're so cute I could just eat you up!|
"The male, absorbed in the performance of his vital functions, holds the female in a tight embrace. But the wretch has no head; he has no neck; he has hardly a body. The other, with her muzzle turned over her shoulder continues very placidly to gnaw what remains of the gentle swain. And, all the time, that masculine stump, holding on firmly, goes on with the business! ... A headless creature, an insect amputated down to the middle of the chest, a very corpse persists in endeavoring to give life. It will not let go until the abdomen, the seat of the procreative organs, is attacked. Eating the lover after consummation of marriage, making a meal of the exhausted dwarf, henceforth good for nothing, can be understood, to some extent, in the insect world, which has no great scruples in matters of sentiment; but gobbling him up during the act goes beyond the wildest dreams of the most horrible imagination. I have seen it with my own eyes and have not yet recovered from my astonishment."
Now I'm not suggesting that the famed French entomologist made this up--but a crucial detail is that these were captive mantises--and the gravid females may have been famished. Experiments conducted in a natural setting, with hidden observers, show that a natural mantis encounter begins with a dance by the male to placate the female. She responds with ritualized movements of her own, which progress from a menacing stance to one of acquiescence. The male then climbs onto the female's back, deposits his sperm into a special chamber, and leaves with his head intact.
There are over 2000 species of preying mantises, so it's certainly possible that some of them are femme fatales. But most female mantises have gotten a bad rap. The legend of the Cannibalistic Preying Mantis Bride has been around for over 100 years--it's about time Snopes.com got around to debunking it.