There are quite a few insects and other invertebrates which turn up in France that you will not see in Britain. I have written several blogs about spiders that are quite impressive, but another chap that I see quite often is the Praying Mantis or European Mantis.
There are many species of mantis throughout the world and some can be very large. The one that is found in France and in Poitou-Charente is not huge on a world scale but none the less is still one of the biggest insects in this part of the world.
Close up it is quite frightening with massive eyes and the front legs modified into a pose of praying. Thus it walks with its remaining four legs, unusual for insects, but it seems to work OK for most mammals so why not.
The praying pose is in fact a clever ploy because if any unsuspecting creature should pass within range then the Mantis can extend its folded up front legs by approximately its own body length and grab the prey. Mainly they will eat small soft bodied insects and spiders but a large one could even manage small frogs and lizards. These front legs are furnished with rows of sharp spines which makes holding the creature more secure. Then the really gruesome part begins, the Mantis has a pair of very sharp jaws and these are used to eat the prey whilst it is still alive.
This species can grow up to 3 inches long and colours are said to vary from bright green through to brown, however I have only seen the bright green ones in Poitou-Charentes. They are in fact quite difficult to see as they are well camouflaged in amongst the green leaves where they normally sit keeping very still to wait for their dinner to walk past.
It is sometimes said that the female will eat the male after mating, however I have read that this idea has developed from observing pairs in captivity where it is difficult for the male to back off. I would think that a large mantis would quite happily devour a small mantis and not care to much if it was male or female. Some larger species in other parts of the world will even take small birds.