A-z - Animals

What do praying mantises eat?

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key point:

  • Pet praying mantises can be long-lived companions if you care for them properly.
  • Praying mantises have excellent eyesight, which enables them to catch food.
  • They mainly eat other insects.

Of all insect orders, few are as charming or deadly as the praying mantis. Praying mantises are insects in the order Mantids, with about 2,400 species. Their close relatives include termites and cockroaches. Although they mainly live in tropical or temperate habitats, you can find them all over the world.

They are also known as praying mantises due to their upright stance and folded forearms. These large and powerful forelimbs help the praying mantis catch its prey. Many people also associate them with boxers because they look as if they raise their arms in a boxer's pose. Some early civilizations revered praying mantises, believing them to possess special powers.

Because of their interesting appearance and unique behavior, people often keep these insects as pets. Given their popularity and the intrigue surrounding praying mantises, it begs the question, "What do praying mantises eat?"

In this article, we'll try to address this question by examining the diet of praying mantises. We'll start by exploring what praying mantises like to eat. Then we'll talk about how they hunt and find food. Next, we'll compare what praying mantises eat in the wild to what they eat as pets.

Finally, we'll briefly discuss what baby praying mantises eat. Without further ado, let's answer the question "What do praying mantises eat?"

What do praying mantises like to eat?

What do praying mantises eat 1
Praying mantises eat just about anything they can catch, including insects, birds, and fish.

© AZ-Animals.com

Praying mantises are carnivores, which means they primarily eat other animals. In general, they mainly prey on other arthropods. While they mostly eat prey smaller than themselves, praying mantises are versatile hunters. Occasionally, they also attack larger prey, including some larger than themselves in length and weight.

A praying mantis' diet will vary depending on the environment it lives in and the prey available. In addition, larger mantises have access to more food than smaller mantises.

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Given these differences, an exhaustive list of all the foods that praying mantises eat would be long. That said, there are some common prey that most praying mantises regularly target. So we've compiled a list of 10 foods that praying mantises love to eat.

Foods that these praying mantises typically like to eat include:

  • insect
  • insect
  • spider
  • worm
  • larva
  • small mammal
  • birds
  • small reptiles
  • small amphibians
  • fish

Where do praying mantises live?

praying mantis bite
It's a fact about praying mantises that they are one of the few insects that can turn their head 180 degrees, which allows them to scan their surroundings with remarkable accuracy and agility.

©Galuh M/Shutterstock.com

Praying mantises are found in many regions of the world, with the highest species diversity in the tropics and subtropics. They can be found in a wide variety of habitats, including forests, grasslands, deserts, and wetlands.

In North America, praying mantises can be found throughout the continent, including Canada, the United States, and Mexico. The most common species found in the United States is the Chinese praying mantis ( Tenodera sinensis ), which was introduced to the East Coast in the late 1800s to control the pest.

In Europe, praying mantises are found in many countries, including Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy. They are also found in Africa, Asia and Australia, where they are native.

Praying mantises can live in a wide variety of environments and habitats, from deserts to tropical rainforests, from the ground to trees. They are also found in gardens and other cultivated areas and help control pests.

What is the lifespan of a praying mantis?

Praying mantis lifespan varies by species, but most adult mantises live about 6-8 months. Some species can live up to a year.

The lifespan of praying mantises can vary greatly by species and by environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity and food availability. Some species of praying mantis can live for several months as adults, while others may only live for a few weeks.

For example, Chinese praying mantises live up to a year, and European mantises live 6-8 months.

The lifespan of a praying mantis also depends on the stage of its life cycle. The egg stage can last a few weeks, the nymph stage can last several months, and as I mentioned earlier, the adult stage can last up to a year in some species.

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It is worth noting that in the wild, most praying mantises do not survive to adulthood due to predation and other environmental factors. However, in captivity, praying mantises can live much longer with proper care and a constant food supply.

How Do Praying Mantises Forage?

Animals that can imitate - praying mantis
Although their bulging eyes and triangular-shaped heads make them stand out, praying mantises are able to blend into foliage to trap prey or protect themselves from predators.

© Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.com

While praying mantises possess similar senses to humans, they rely on certain senses more than others to find food. Praying mantises, in particular, mostly rely on their amazing vision to locate prey. Unlike most other insects, praying mantises have five eyes that face forward.

Their binocular 3D vision (called stereopsis) allows them to efficiently detect depth and distance. This ability greatly aids them in finding prey. Meanwhile, their other senses are not nearly as developed. Praying mantises primarily use their sense of smell to help them detect the pheromones of powered mantises.

Furthermore, their sense of hearing is not used to find prey, but to avoid predators. For example, they can use their ears to detect the echolocation sounds of bats, a common praying mantis predator. Finally, praying mantises rely on their sensitive antennae for touch, while their sense of taste is less developed.

In general, praying mantises are ambush hunters, relying on invisibility to catch their prey without their knowledge. You may have seen a praying mantis standing still with its arms raised in a fighter stance. Praying mantises adopt this posture to confuse other animals into thinking they are just a wayward stick.

This is aided by their natural camouflage, with many species appearing light green, brown or gray. Once its target is close enough, the praying mantis will quickly sprint forward. It grabs its target with its spiny front legs, pulls it closer, and proceeds to eat its prey raw. That said, some praying mantises choose to use different strategies when hunting.

For example, some ground mantises will chase their prey and hunt it down. Ground mantises typically live in dry, arid climates with low tree cover, which explains this adaptation.

What Do Praying Mantises Eat In The Wild?

praying mantis bite
Praying mantises will even eat other praying mantises, especially during mating season.

© Warren Parker/Shutterstock.com

The type of food praying mantises eat in the wild varies depending on the habitat they live in. Given that praying mantises live on every continent except Antarctica, they have access to plenty of prey. However, praying mantises often target some common prey. Overall, insects make up the bulk of a praying mantis' diet.

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They eat many different types of insects, both flying and ground-dwelling. Some examples include crickets, grasshoppers, butterflies, moths, spiders and beetles. Smaller species and juvenile specimens target aphids, leafhoppers, mosquitoes, and caterpillars, among others. Praying mantises also eat worms, grubs, and insect larvae.

Large species are also capable of hunting larger prey. They eat small frogs, lizards, snakes and mice. Additionally, some species will attack and eat small birds and fish. Sometimes, they even eat other praying mantises, especially after mating.

What Do Pet Praying Mantises Eat?

Top Predator: Praying Mantis
Praying mantises have been known to eat mice, lizards, and even snakes.

©Ryzhkov Oleksandr/Shutterstock.com

Praying mantises are popular pets due to their relatively long lifespans and playful behavior. If you have a pet praying mantis, you will want to feed it a balanced diet. In general, praying mantises prefer to eat live prey. Therefore, live insects will make up the majority of your pet praying mantis' diet. As a best practice, if a praying mantis does not consume live food within an hour, it should be removed from the tank.

Crickets and grasshoppers will make up the bulk of your pet praying mantis' diet. However, if your pet praying mantis is small or very young, you can start with aphids, fruit flies, and other small prey. Meanwhile, larger insects can also eat things like cockroaches, beetles, and flies.

While some people will feed their pet praying mantis raw meat, this is not recommended. When it comes to a praying mantis' diet, you're best off sticking to what they eat in the wild.

What do little praying mantises eat?

Orchid Mantis
Small praying mantises or nymphs usually prey on aphids, leafhoppers and fruit flies.


Also known as nymphs, small pet mantises tend to eat smaller insects than adult mantises. Once they are born, the nymphs are able to forage for their own food.

They quickly set off on their own, as they risk being eaten by their own mother if they stay too long. Baby praying mantises will eat just about anything they can get their hands on, including other praying mantises.

Some of the most common foods eaten by little praying mantises include aphids, leafhoppers, and fruit flies. On average, young praying mantises eat about every 3 to 4 days. As a praying mantis ages, it will be able to accommodate larger meals. If you have questions about what to feed your pet praying mantis, consult your local exotic pet store specialist or veterinarian.


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