Praying mantises are a member of the grasshopper family. They are voracious feeders and can be indiscriminate in terms of what type of prey it attacks – especially when hungry.
Crickets tend to be loud and deliberate in movement, which makes them very vulnerable to the lightning quick reflexes of a mantid in attack more.
Do Praying Mantises Eat Crickets? Yes they will definitely eat crickets, as many as they can get their (fore)arms around. There may be some inherent dangers, though. Which we’ll explore in this article…
So lets get into it…
Why Do Praying Mantis Hunt Crickets?
The praying mantis may be the fiercest fighter and predator per ounce of body weight – not only among insects but in the whole world. Given their modus operandi while hunting, namely, lying in wait in the undergrowth or on plant stems or leaves – and then pouncing with lightning speed on an unsuspecting prey – some behavior displayed by crickets make them targets for mantids.
Crickets make a lot of noise, we all know this. In fact, though house cricket infestations can turn into a major pest problem, crickets in the wild are not considered to be as big a pest as (say) locusts.
But they are a nuisance – it seems like they keep producing their symphony round the clock. They also tend to hop about on the ground and in shrubbery quite a bit, all ideal hunting grounds for the mantis.
Finally, they display a tendency to “freeze” when they perceive low to mid-level threats, though they can jump or fly away (if they are capable of flight) when the threat gets real.
The habitat where crickets roam, their noisiness and propensity to freeze at times all create opportunities for the mantids to spot them and attack at the right moment. The last second reactions of the cricket are usually no match for the lightning quick forearms of the attacking mantis.
There are, however, a few problems that the praying mantis might run into with a cricket. One is size.
While large mantids, such as the Chinese mantis can attack, kill and devour crickets that are as big as them, or even bigger, there are crickets that may be more than a match for smaller mantids, the reason being that crickets can definitely bite.
And finally, their exoskeletons may contain some nasty viruses and bacteria. More on each of these later.
Are Crickets a Preferred Food Source or Would Praying Mantis choose Something Else if Available?
Praying mantises are generalists when it comes to food. If they are hungry or if the opportunity presents itself, they will eat practically anything that moves.
Their diet includes all manners of flies, worms, eggs, larvae, bees, wasps, moths, butterflies, ladybugs, grasshoppers, crickets and locusts, and even small turtles, spiders, snakes and birds. So mantids will eat anything that they can find moving within a roughly 50 feet radius.
Their acumen is helped greatly by their unique (among insects) ability to rotate their head and look over their shoulders.
A mantid is known to be able to move lightning fast, pinning their prey with pincer like forearms. Crickets are easy for mantids to spot and attack, however, they may fight back.
While the cricket may not always be the idea source of food for mantids, the two frequently come in contact with one another, and the mantis is always hungry and rarely picky about which small moving object it attacks.
Will a Praying Mantis Avoid Certain Types of Crickets?
Crickets are not a natural predator of mantids – those include certain snakes, lizards, birds and bats, and occasionally spiders, hornets, ants and wasps. As such, there is no reason for a mantis to fear approaching a cricket as food.
As we explain later, crickets can present some unpleasant surprises to mantids, either while they are being attacked (or even while being eaten) and also after the mantis ingests a cricket, due to harmful substances, viruses or bacteria.
But there is no way for the mantis to know this beforehand, so in general, they will not avoid any crickets that they happen to come upon.
Are Crickets Nutritious for Praying Mantis?
Crickets are as nutritious as any other small insects that a praying mantis can attack, subdue and devour. Mantids will hold its intended prey down with their powerful and sharp forearms, piercing their body armors if possible, in an attempt to pin it in position while they begin to eat body parts, or the head, while the prey is still alive.
What the mantis is after is the nutritious organic matter, blood, marrow etc. from inside the body of the cricket – while it’s possible that the cricket is eaten whole, it may simply be sucked dry and its empty husk left on the field.
How nutritious a cricket ends up being will depend on its size relative to the size of the mantis that attacks it.
Are Praying Mantis Hunting Crickets a Common Occurrence?
Praying mantises hunt in the same habitat as crickets. As a result, mantids hunting crickets is a common occurrence. Pet owners also feed their mantids crickets as food on a regular basis.
Where in the World Does this Happen?
Mantids eat crickets wherever they come in contact with them. Given their mutual habitats, the phenomenon is common all over the world. Check out this YouTube video of a praying mantis eating a cricket:
Is the Cricket a Danger to the Mantis?
Crickets can definitely be a danger to mantids. Crickets are known to bite. Even though cricket bites are not fatal to humans, they can be painful. Certain species of crickets are big compared to a medium or small mantis, and several of them have powerful mandibles – examples are House Crickets, Black Field Crickets, Crazy Red Crickets and Jamaican Field Crickets.
There have been many reports of a mantis, which always goes after its prey while it’s still alive, eating a part of a cricket’s body while the latter is chomping at a leg or wing of the mantis.
So, there is always the risk of an encounter which ends up with grievous harm to the praying mantis. One silver lining is that the praying mantis has the capability to regenerate parts that it loses in such skirmishes – they may initially emerge as weak stubs but in a few weeks the mantis can be good as new.
The second problem, which could present a more permanent problem, are viruses and bacteria. Crickets have a hard exoskeleton made from “chitin”, a fibrous, resinous deposit.
Not only does this occasionally create a problem for the mantis to bite all the way through, the layers of the exoskeleton pick up all kinds of nasty stuff which can make the mantis throw up or even die. More on this topic below.
If you want to know more about what other things Mantis are likely to eat, then check our articles on:
Can You Keep Mantids and Crickets in the Same Solarium as Pets?
There are two aspects to this. First, if you keep your praying mantises and crickets in proximity or separated by any sort of a barrier that the mantids can scale or make their way around, the chances are 100% that the they will attack, kill and devour the crickets. So, if you want to keep your crickets alive, a cage where mantids live is not the spot for them.
The second point is equally, if not more, important. Many terrarium owners will use crickets as food for their pet mantids, given that they are cheap and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. For the most part, this does not create a problem. Except, as we saw, crickets can and do fight back and can harm the mantis.
There have also been numerous reported cases of the mantids starting to vomit from their cricket diet and even die. On further study, scientists realized that some crickets carry certain particularly nasty strains of bacteria and viruses that do not harm humans or amphibians but can be deadly to insects like the mantis.
For example, there have been occasional infestations of the Acheta domesticus Densovirus (AdDNV) that can wreak havoc if introduced into cricket breeding facilities. See below for such a report of such an infestation:
Due to such a danger, it may be worthwhile to keep close watch on whether or not it’s appropriate to use crickets as food for mantises – some pet stores suggest blue bottle flies are a much better (safer) source for feeding mantids.
There are competing theories, including some that say that if you choose the right types of crickets and feed them the right diet, the danger isn’t great. Regardless, it makes sense to be careful.
I’ve written several other articles about what preying mantis will eat on school of bugs. Check them out in the Praying Mantis section. We look at things like will they eat worms, locust and even hummingbirds!
In Conclusion …
Mantids will attack crickets quite happily, drawn by their constant sounds. In most cases, they will complete the kill and eat their victims. There are, however, situations where crickets may prove toxic to the mantids, though the latter is unaware of this and does not possess any natural defenses against any harmful virus or bacteria entering their bodies.
All in all, a praying mantis in the wild is on its own; if you keep one as a pet, you may want to keep away from crickets unless you have no other options.
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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