Six mantid species (Sphodromantis viridis, Polyspilota aeruginosa, Hierodula unimaculata, Parasphendale agrionia, Mantis religiosa and Empusa pennata) were studied in laboratory feeding experiments. Mantids stalk their prey and pounce on it, grasping it with their forelegs. Only living prey is selected and it is consumed directly after the catch. The predator orients itself optically, and therefore only takes notice of moving prey. The maximum size of prey which mantids can overwhelm is species-specific and depends on the prey type. On average mantids eat crickets of 50% their own body-weight while cockroaches can weigh up to 110%. Feeding experiments with 101 species of potential prey of 21 invertebrate orders showed an average feeding rate of 70% and marked differences among the predators. Polyspilota proved to be the least specialized mantid and Empusa caught the smallest amount of prey. Most of the defence mechanisms which arthropods have developed against their enemies proved to be ineffective against mantids. Neither a hard chitinous exoskeleton nor poisonous substances prevented the mantids from attacking their prey successfully. The protective secretion of the cotton stainer Dysdercus intermedius proved to be effective at least in a few instances. Even though these bugs were killed, the mantids usually refused to eat the abdomen, where the glands that produce the protective secretion are to be found. Thanatosis, as exhibited by the chrysomelid Cassida viridis and by the phasmid Carausius morosus, proved to be the best protection against mantids.