What do Praying Mantis’ Eat? A Complete Guide

By Avenue - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12876871

If you enjoy reading this article, why not check out our articles on Do Spiders Sleep? Do They Rest? and Longest Living Mantis Species – An Examination

What do praying mantis’ eat and drink?

When you are talking about what praying mantis’ eat, it is way easier to answer the opposite question. You would finish quicker if you do a shortlist of what praying mantis will not eat under any circumstances. The truth is, praying mantis’ have two defining qualities when it comes to their diet: they are carnivores and predators. Yes, there are insects out there that eat meat. And the praying mantis does not shy away from any type of meat.

Usually, a small-sized praying mantis will feed off ants, flies and small crickets. A medium-sized praying mantis will move onto bigger things, like roaches, bees, and butterflies. The biggest praying mantis will eat anything they can find.

Does a praying mantis hunt?

By Katja Schulz from Washington, D. C., USA - Mediterranean Mantis, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40573910

Once it reaches its biggest stage, a praying mantis will eat any insect it can find – and the praying mantis with the best hunting abilities will attempt to turn any small rodents, birds, lizards, and frogs into their meal. That is right: once a praying mantis gets past a certain point, it will attack anything they deem worth eating, insect or not. That is why they are predators. That is not to say that they are on top of the food chain or that every attack they launch is successful. But praying mantis is known to attack insects as well as small mammals and reptiles.

Another particular thing about the praying mantis is the way they feed off their victims. They do not go for the kill before eating. They will kill their prey when they are feeding off it, not a second before. That is due to their eating habits. The praying mantis only feeds off live prey, if the animal or insect is dead, they will not touch it.

Are praying mantis predators?

By Christian Ferrer, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42562361

They most definitely are. And they are nasty predators as well. If you consider the insect world alone, the praying mantis is close to the top. It might not be the number one predator, but it is up there in the top three, fighting off things like spiders and hornets. Everything else falls down against the merciless praying mantis. And they are nasty predators as well. As you know, praying mantis will not feed off something dead – they prefer alive prey to fulfill their nutrition requirements.

Once a praying mantis is hungry, they will wait for a victim to walk closely to them and quickly snatch them off the ground with their spiked forelegs. Normally, a praying mantis prefers to wait for their victims. But if they are hungry enough, they will go out and look for something to eat – to feed off from.

And the praying mantis is not only a predator to other species. This type of insect is the representation of how ruthless nature is.

Speaking of predators, you may be interested in learning more about another predator discussed on this website: the scorpion! Take a read: How Deadly Are Scorpions? The Answer May Surprise You

Do Female Praying Mantis’ Eat their Mates?

If a praying mantis is hungry enough, it will look for another praying mantis. If the second praying mantis is caught off guard, it will be, most likely, the next victim of their own species.

Even though praying mantis practice sexual cannibalism -eating their mate after the sexual act- a praying mantis does not need to have sexual relations to resort to cannibalism, they just need to feel hungry.

Are praying mantis victims to other predators?

Even though the praying mantis is a ferocious and predatory insect, it does not mean they are safe from other insects or animals. As previously stated, a praying mantis can fall victim to their own kind – another praying mantis. But bigger a praying mantis will attempt to hunt bigger things -at least, bigger than the average insects- like wasps, spiders, frogs, and lizards. The problem with this tactic is that the praying mantis is both a predator and preyed on by these animals.

Sometimes, when a praying mantis is looking for something to eat, they can become the meal instead. This usually happens to the hungrier praying mantis, as they move away from their silent, stalking style of hunting in favor of a more active, exposed type of hunt. Other times, the complete opposite happens, when another animal thinks he is about to prey on a praying mantis, the praying mantis ends up eating a meal instead.

Can praying mantis eat ants?

A defining moment in the praying mantis’ life happens before they even begin to live. When the praying mantis reproduces, the female will leave from 10 to 400 eggs either on the ground or wrapped around a plant. At this moment, most small insects, like ants, can become potential predators to a praying mantis. Once the egg hatches, they lost their window of opportunity.

How do praying mantis stalk their prey?

Once a praying mantis is hungry enough and decides it is time to find a new meal, two things can happen. Either a praying mantis will wait, patiently, for a victim to come close enough to it. Once the victim is within grabbing reach, the praying mantis will use its raptorial forelegs and quickly lift the prey. As the prey is being lifted, the praying mantis will tighten the grasp on its prey, paralyzing it completely.

A few insects or small animals might resist and attempt to escape, but once the praying mantis grasped you with its forelegs, it is all over. Once that happens, the praying mantis will not kill its victim but will commence to feed off the flesh while the prey is alive. If there are no possible victims around the praying mantis, it will start to look for prey until it eventually finds something to eat and engages in the process mentioned above.

When the praying mantis eats the flesh of its victim, it might not digest it right away. A particular feature of the praying mantis is their foregut. They can fill it with undigested food after they hunt, and feed off their nutrients later on.

If you want to know more about what other things Mantis are likely to eat, then check our articles on:

What Do Praying Mantis Eat – The Definitive Answer!

Do Praying Mantises Eat Crickets? Lets find out!

Do Praying Mantis Eat Spiders?! Let us Find Out

Do Praying Mantises Eat Locusts – Let’s Find Out!

Do Praying Mantis Eat Worms? Let’s Find Out

Do Praying Mantis Eat Hummingbirds? Everyone Should Know This!

Do praying mantis eat every day?

No, they do not. Even though they are as fierce as they can when they need to eat, they usually eat once per week. More precisely, a praying mantis will look for food once every four days. And that is if they did not fill their foregut with older prey. As you know, a praying mantis can hunt down its prey, feed off it and then keep eating to store it away in their foregut. The meat in the foregut stays undigested until the praying mantis needs the nutrients.

Can a praying mantis eat what humans give it?

Yes, they can. There are a lot of people around the world who have praying mantis as pets. They are an unusual choice, but a good one regardless. They live to up to one year and a half in captivity and they will keep the same eating habits as they would in the wild. If a person decides to keep a praying mantis as a pet, they will have to give it, using their hands or a plier, small insects, like flies or crickets.

As the praying mantis gets bigger, owners choose to give the praying mantis more nutritious meals in the form of roaches or caterpillars. When a pet praying mantis starts to get bigger and moves onto larger prey, it can be a tricky thing to feed it. If left alone to feed off, for example, a roach or a caterpillar, the would-be prey will try to hide and run away from the praying mantis. There are several cases of domestic praying mantis dying due to starvation because of negligent owners who didn’t make sure their pet eats their prey.

Is a praying mantis poisonous?

Other people, like gardeners and farmers, will form a symbiotic relationship with a large batch of praying mantis. Due to their appetite and prey choices, a praying mantis is a great option when it comes to eliminating pests and insects from farms or gardens.

What do praying mantis eat in captivity?

A praying mantis will eat the same things in captivity as it would do in the wild. The only difference between a captive praying mantis and a wild one is how often they might eat. In the wild, a praying mantis will only eat when they are hungry -around four days between each meal- because of the dangers of nature. A captive praying mantis does not have to bother about any dangers and will feed off anything you give it, anytime. A praying mantis can suffer severe consequences from overfeeding.

What does baby praying mantis eat?

When praying mantis reproduce, they leave up to 400 eggs in the wild to hatch. Before the warm temperatures trigger the birth of many praying mantis, a lot of insects prey upon these eggs. Anyone, from ants to wasps, is looking for praying mantis eggs to feast on. But once they hatch, baby praying mantis is ready to start hunting. They are born resembling their adult peers and eat the same thing adults normally do from day one. Since they are not too keen on hunting and there are not a lot of prey around at first, most praying mantis will start eating their siblings before they move onto other insects. Before they reach adulthood, most baby praying mantis will hunt small insects like flies or ants.

Do praying mantis eat their mates?

Yes, they do. Commonly, praying mantis engage in what is called “sexual cannibalism”. There is a chance the female praying mantis will attempt to feed off the male praying mantis after -and sometimes during- copulation. This is a well-known fact and one that is often brought up when someone is talking about the praying mantis.

What most people don’t know, is that sexual cannibalism is a consequence of praying mantis having a poor diet. Scientists in China have extensively studied the praying mantis behavior and found out that sexual cannibalism is often a forgotten trait amongst well-fed praying mantis. What is even more extraordinary, the praying mantis will engage in courtship rituals instead of sexual cannibalism if they are not hungry. But if they do suffer from hunger, they will prefer a meal over a sexual mate.

When praying mantis engage in sexual cannibalism, it is highly more likely that the female praying mantis will eat their male counterpart after the sexual act.

Do praying mantis eat ants?

Yes, they do. But there is a caveat here. A normal-sized praying mantis will often avoid ants when they are hunting as they are small insects and will not satisfy their hunger. On the other hand, ants will look for praying mantis’ eggs to feed on.

Curious what else ants eat besides praying mantis eggs? Let’s find out: What Can Ants Eat?

Do praying mantis eat spiders?

Yes, they do. Oftentimes a praying mantis will hunt down small or medium-sized spiders to feed off from. Larger spiders are not under direct threat from a praying mantis but they can be attacked by one. In exchange, larger spiders predate upon praying mantis as well.

Do praying mantis eat spider mites?

Yes, they do! Many people suffer from spider mites feeding off their plants and a great, organic way to solve this problem is buying -or capturing- a praying mantis or two. They will eat the spider mites in no time, without the need for pesticides or other poison.

Do praying mantis eat every single type of insect there is?

They do. There is not a single insect that praying mantis will not try to feed off from if they are hungry. It does not matter if it crawls, walks or flies. The praying mantis will try to eat it while it is alive if they catch it.

Do praying mantis eat lizards?

Praying mantis eat small lizards. A known victim of the praying mantis predatory habits is the gecko, a small reptile. Praying mantis also feeds off small amphibians as well, like little frogs.

Do praying mantis eat birds?

Just like lizards and frogs, if they are small enough, a praying mantis will try to eat it. There are a lot of birds who may fall prey to a big enough praying mantis. Hummingbirds are a prime example of this. Praying mantis are also known for attacking and feeding off small rodents too.

Do praying mantis eat plants? Do praying mantis eat leaves?

No, this is the only thing a praying mantis will not eat. Even though most insects eat plants and leaves, the praying mantis follows a strict carnivore diet. This might come as a shock, as praying mantis are willing to eat almost anything they can. But their one, true exception is greens. Plants, leaves or anything tree related is not a part of the praying mantis’ diet.

If you enjoyed reading this article, why not check out our articles on Can Insects See in Color? Let’s Find Out and How Long do Ants Live? The Complete Answer

Steve Foster

Mad about bugs and wanting to publish as many articles as I can to help educate people about these amazing beautiful creatures! For more info check out my about page https://schoolofbugs.com/about-steve-foster/

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