A-z - Animals

Do praying mantises bite?

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key point

  • Praying mantises belong to the Praying Mantis family, which includes about 2,400 species of insects.
  • Native to Europe, parts of Asia, and Africa, they thrive in tropical environments.
  • Praying mantises have been known to have a rather odd mating ritual in which the female eats the male after mating.
  • Praying mantises are well known predators, eating small reptiles, birds, and even mammals.
  • People who are bitten by this insect should wash the area with warm water and soap.

Among all the different kinds of insects you may come across in your yard or garden, praying mantises are sure to stand out from the crowd. Depending on their species, these insects can grow up to six inches long. Some are dark brown or gray, while others are bright green or even yellow. This insect can turn its head 180 degrees and climb up brick walls!

Those big eyes and that triangular head probably gave this predatory arthropod a pretty menacing look. This might prompt you to wonder: Do praying mantises bite? What does a praying mantis bite look like?

The answers to these questions are here. You'll also learn how a praying mantis attacks its prey, what it eats, and whether it's true that a female praying mantis bites off the head of a male praying mantis.

Do praying mantises bite?

Yes, praying mantises can bite. However, instead of teeth, it had a mandible. The mandibles are strong, sharp jaws that move sideways to cut or tear food. You have to look very closely at a praying mantis to see its mandibles. You're more likely to notice the insect's long front legs.

Praying mantises have jagged edges on their front legs, somewhat like shark teeth. Therefore, when it grabs an insect or other prey with its front legs, the insect is held tightly and cannot escape.

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When a praying mantis is resting, it folds its front legs toward its face. That's what it's called.

praying mantis bite
The green European mantis, Mantis, feeds on a red dragonfly.

©WildMedia/Shutterstock.com

Do praying mantises bite?

Praying mantises do bite humans, but this is very rare. If a praying mantis feels threatened by a human picking it up or cornering it, the insect is likely to adopt a defensive stance rather than try to bite.

If a small two or three inch praying mantis bites a person, the person may not even feel the bite. However, if someone is bitten by a six-inch praying mantis, it may be painful.

Praying mantises can grab human fingers with their front legs. This causes a slight squeeze. However, this is as rare as being bitten by this insect.

What to do if a person is bitten by a praying mantis?

Praying mantises are not poisonous, and mantis bites do not cause much harm to humans. Also, it's important to mention that they have three-dimensional vision and they are less likely to mistake humans for prey.

What does a praying mantis bite like? Someone bitten by a praying mantis may see an itchy or swollen red spot. Fortunately, you're not in danger of getting sick from a human bite as long as you wash your hands as soon as possible. If the spot becomes irritated or itchy, calamine lotion can help soothe it.

What do praying mantises eat?

While praying mantis bites are not a big deal to humans, they are a big problem for many small insects! Praying mantises are carnivores that feed on crickets, spiders, lizards, frogs and even small birds.

Like many other types of animals, the size of a praying mantis determines the type of prey it eats. A six-inch praying mantis may eat hummingbirds and frogs because of its ability to catch these larger prey. Alternatively, the three-inch praying mantis might stick to catching crickets and grasshoppers because they are easier to catch.

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Will a praying mantis bite its prey?

Yes it does. Because the praying mantis is able to blend into its surroundings, it is able to stalk its prey without being detected. Once an insect gets close enough to its prey, it extends its front legs to grab the prey. Often, prey cannot escape the insect's strong, sharp front legs. When the prey becomes motionless, the praying mantis uses its mandible to bite it. Its mandibles easily shred insects or larger prey.

Do female praying mantises bite off the heads of male praying mantises?

Of all the facts about this insect, this is one of the most interesting. Have you ever heard of a female praying mantis biting off the head of a male praying mantis? As weird as it sounds, it's true.

When a female praying mantis mates with a male, she may bite off his head. In fact, she might bite off and eat his head, legs, and other parts of his body. This is part of the reason why praying mantises are known to be aggressive insects. So, the question comes to mind: Why do females of this species do this?

Answer: Scientists aren't sure why female praying mantises bite off the heads of male praying mantises during mating. A common theory is that she eats the males for nourishment so her eggs will be stronger.

While studying this behavior in female praying mantises, the scientists noticed that it didn't happen every time. In fact, they found that female praying mantises were only 30 percent likely to bite off a male's head. Even so, it remains one of nature's incredible mysteries.

praying mantis bite
A female praying mantis cannibalizes her mate.

© Warren Parker/Shutterstock.com

Who are the predators of the praying mantis?

Large birds, snakes, and bullfrogs are predators of the praying mantis, which is about six inches long. The smaller praying mantis is about 3 inches long, and its predators include spiders, wasps and bats. These predators live in or near the same grassland or woodland habitats as praying mantises.

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How do praying mantises protect themselves from predators?

You'd think that a praying mantis' bite is its best defense against predators, but it's not. The insect's best defense is its ability to blend in with its environment. Bright green praying mantises can easily perch on leaves or flower stems while hiding from predators. Brown praying mantises can sit unnoticed on a stick or pile of weeds.

Another way praying mantises protect themselves from predators is by making themselves appear larger than they really are. When it feels threatened, the praying mantis will raise its body and start shaking its front legs. It can also spread its wings to increase its size. Sometimes the insect moves its head from left to right in a repetitive pattern to confuse predators. All of these defensive strategies may be enough to keep smaller predators at bay.

next…

  • Praying Mantis vs Grasshopper: What Are the 8 Key Differences? : They look alike, but are they similar? Find the difference between a praying mantis and a grasshopper.
  • Male and Female Praying Mantises: What's the Difference? : We all know about the bizarre cannibalistic mating rituals of praying mantises, but what other factors make male and female mantises so different? Find it here.
  • Bugs vs Insects: What Are Differences?: What's the Difference Between Bugs and Insects? Find it here.

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praying mantis bite
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about the author


Lex is a green, tree-loving animal lover and mother of 21 felines and a dog. Now, she helps pet owners around the world become the best caretakers for their most trusted pets by sharing experiences and spreading love.

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