When it comes to dinner, praying mantis have quite a versatile palette. They’ll eat almost anything – even other mantids. Depending on their size, the mantis will eat various insects and wildlife, like hummingbirds, lizards, frogs, mice, arthropods, insects, butterfly larvae, and even worms.
Do Praying Mantis Eat Worms? Yes, it turns out that praying Mantis DO eat worms, but not the type of worms that you can find in your backyard!
That being said, there’s way more to this question than a simple answer paragraph and this article will explore the question do mantis eat worms and important questions like are worms a threat to praying mantis!?
So let’s get into it.
Why Do Praying Mantis Eat Worms?
Praying mantises are a carnivorous type of mantid. They get their name from their spine-covered, raptorial legs, which look like praying hands. However, the praying mantis’ name has a double meaning because these little guys are talented hunters, “preying” on their meals.
With its fantastic sight, spine-covered raptorial legs, quick reflexes, and its ability to turn its head 180 degrees, they’re not only deadly predators but efficient ones at that. They can capture food with lightning-fast speed and devour it in the blink of an eye.
Praying mantis are not fussy eaters. They will eat anything and everything that is small enough for it to subdue with its raptorial legs (praying hands). These forelegs are quite strong and can effectively pin down opponents long enough for the mantis to disable it and eat it alive.
Since mantids can get pretty large in certain parts of the world, this means that some praying mantises can eat mice, hummingbirds, and some have been seen hunting goldfish.
Anything that crosses a praying mantis path will be eaten. Any insect, or small animal, is fair game. If a worm is unfortunate enough to be seen by a mantis, it’s going to end up as lunch. No if’s, and’s, or but’s about it.
Do Praying Mantis Prefer Worms over other Insects?
While mantises aren’t picky eaters, they do have their preferences. The praying mantis usually doesn’t go for your standard garden worm. They love to pig out on silkworms and mealworms, and if it’s a more massive Mantis, they can even indulge in a super worm (or two).
However, contrary to their names, neither mealworms nor silkworms are worms at all. Mealworms are actually beetle larvae, and silkworms are moth pupa.
They are named after worms for their invertebrate-like appearance, but they are, in fact, not. So technically, praying mantis don’t precisely like worms. They just like insects masquerading under the name of worm.
Mantis may be total food lovers, but they seem to prefer insects over any other type of species. Some of their favorite food includes crickets, beetles, locusts, grasshoppers, mosquitos, flies, and caterpillars.
Do Praying Mantis avoid Certain Types of Worms?
The standard for mantid meals is low, but there are some requirements for dining on worms. It’s best practice for humans to avoid any type of parasite like ringworm, tapeworm, roundworm, etc. It’s the same for mantis too!
They have to check their food for parasites as one small mistake could end their life. They will not touch anything that they believe to be infested, especially if it’s a horsehair worm infestation.
Are Worms Dangerous to Mantis?
Believe it or not, there are actually parasites that prey on the praying mantis. These parasites are an instant death sentence for any mantis unfortunate enough to catch one.
The most common worm parasite in praying mantises is called Gordian worms, or horsehair worms. They are a breed of roundworms that get their name from their twisted, threadlike bodies that resemble a strand of horsehair. There are 350 types of horsehair worms, and they’re all designed to attack bugs and insects from the inside.
Horsehair worms are found inside the insects that mantis eat. The parasite is passed when the mantis digests it, allowing it to grow inside its abdomen. There the creature grows and grows, curling up inside the digestion of the mantis, draining all of its energy.
These nasty little buggers can grow up to 35 inches, eventually growing so large that the host’s body can’t hold it any longer.
The horsehair worm parasite eventually takes over the mantis nervous system, taking over its motor functions. Then it uses its mind control powers to lead the host to the nearest body of water, drowns it, and releases itself from the remains – it is not a pretty sight.
Are Worms Nutritious to Praying Mantis?
Praying mantis love mealworms. They’re like a treat to them, but like most treats, they’re not exactly the most nutritious snack. Think of it like potato chips – you could eat them all day, but they’ll never fully satisfy you with their empty calories.
Mealworms are filled with empty calories. They don’t have the same nutritional benefits as grasshoppers, locusts, or beetles, so a mantis cannot live on mealworms alone. While it a mealworm or two is great every once and a while, it’s best to keep nutrition as the sole focus in a mantis diet.
On the contrary to mealworms, silkworms are highly nutritious for mantises and will aid in promoting their development and growth.
This method for development is so effective that it can become a problem for mantis pet owners as they sometimes struggle to keep up with the substantial increase in size. The more their mantis grew, the bigger the silkworms would have to be.
Where in the world does this happen?
There are over 2,400 different species of mantis, spanning all over the globe, and it’s been that way for a while. Million-year-old fossils of these creatures have been found in both Serbia and Japan, bringing to question where in the world this creature originated.
Praying mantis ground crawlers and leaf lurkers. They usually stay in warm, damp climates, but they’ve also been found in colder temperatures like those of the United States and Central Europe.
The European mantis has been deemed as the most common praying mantis in the world. Still, most species are located in Japan, where they have access to a cornucopia of yummy silkworms, grasshoppers, and beetles.
Is it a Common Occurrence for a Mantis to eat a Worm?
Praying Mantises are terrifying, carnivorous apex hunters, and they will eat when they are hungry – no matter what.
And since praying mantis are no strangers to cannibalism (look up praying mantis mating ritual cannibalism on Google), hunger can sometimes result in one mantis eating another.
This usually occurs after a battle to the death in which the mantis strike with their spine-covered forelegs and pin each other down, biting and gnawing. Eventually, one mantis will get the upper hand and kill the other by eating its body.
This means that nothing is safe around a predator like the praying mantis – not even their own kind!
They camouflage themselves and wait for any unfortunate being to wander in its path. Then it moves silently, swiftly, and they eat it alive. If the mantis is hungry, and it sees that worm, the worm is toast.
If you want to know more about what other things Mantis are likely to eat, then check our articles on:
Can you Keep Worms and Mantis in the terrarium?
Because of the great lengths in which worms can grow, it’s challenging to keep them inside of a small terrarium. As explained above, praying mantises are big bullies – they will eat anything and everything that is smaller than them.
If the worm gets too big, the mantis won’t eat it. If it’s too small, it won’t survive the night. So there are no bugs that will be able to coexist in the same environment as a praying mantis peacefully.
Not even another mantis is safe!
While you feed your mantis in its terrarium, make sure to keep an eye on how much you provide it. You do NOT want leftover worms in your terrarium as they will quickly grow too big for it and become an inconvenience for you.
What should you put in your terrarium instead?
Instead of adding worms or other insects to your mantis terrarium, add a lot of green and vegetation. Praying mantises are carnivores. That means they do not like to eat their greens!
Sticks, branches, leaves, and dried grass. Provide it with the lush hunting environment that this fearsome little creature deserves.
If you enjoy reading this article then why not check out our article on Can Praying Mantis Eat Hummingbirds.
Why should You Feed your Mantis Worms?
Not only are worms very affordable and easy to take care of, but they are also an essential part of your mantises diet. As generalized eaters, they require variety in their food to stay happy and healthy.
So give them a break between all the grasshoppers and flies, and throw them a mealworm. Better yet, provide them with a silkworm and watch how it drastically improves their appearance, health, and happiness.
Praying mantises are fearsome hunters and generalized eaters, designed to kill swiftly and efficiently. They are excellent at camouflage, and they attack without prejudice or hesitation. They’re not even afraid of killing and eating their own kind!
All these factors mix together to create a blood-thirsty little predator, making them undeniably cool and exciting to watch. While they can be deadly to insects and small animals, they are lovely pets for us! Treat your little pet to some worms!
If you want to learn more about various insects, then checkout our site categories, we have a bunch of articles there that are totally worth reading:
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All the best
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