Praying mantis can grow back limbs, but this only happens when they change their skin.
Essentially a praying mantis that has lost one or more limbs will continue to look the same for some weeks or months after the accident. However, deep inside, the praying mantis is trying to regrow the limb.
When your praying mantis next molts you’ll find that the limb has been partially regenerated. The word “partially” is important in that sentence. Your praying mantis won’t immediately regrow a full-sized limb. Instead, the limb that regrows will be much smaller than the other limbs. It is often a different color too – perhaps much paler. It’ll look rather odd.
However your praying mantis is far from done. At the next molt after that you’ll notice the once-lost limb is larger yet, and more normally-colored. With each subsequent molt it’ll look ever more like the others until, eventually, one day, the limb will be so perfectly regrown that you won’t be able to tell it from the others.
As I say, this can take a few molts though, so you’re going to have to be patient.
In the meantime, most praying mantis can survive just fine without a limb or two. They may find it a little more difficult to climb and perch, but most will compensate for the lost limb just fine.
However there are a few exceptions where this isn’t always the case:
Lost Front Limbs
Lost front limbs are a much bigger deal than losing other legs. The reason is obvious; your praying mantis needs those limbs to capture prey, and to hold the item still while it eats. Losing one of these legs is therefore a major disability for your mantis.
While losing both can, in all fairness, be a death sentence for your mantis, losing just one is survivable. You’ll want to take extra care of your mantis during the regeneration phase (which we’ll discuss later in this article) but given some effort your mantis should pull through fine.
Lost Limbs In Older Praying Mantis
As lost limbs are regenerated slowly, growing ever larger with each molt, a further concern is larger or older praying mantis. Quite simply, they may not have enough molts left to fully regrow the lost limb.
Adult praying mantis (easily identified by having full-sized wings) generally don’t molt again. They’re said to be on their “ultimate molt”. Eventually, time will run its course and your mantis will die of old age, rather than molting again.
In these cases it should be obvious that the limb won’t regrow. This can be particularly tough if you were planning to breed your praying mantis. In my experience praying mantis missing limbs sometimes find it harder to get into the right position to mate, though some specimens do manage it.
Tips for Caring for a Praying Mantis With Lost Limbs
To maximize the chances of your praying mantis making it to their next molt, it can be worth giving your mantis a little extra care. Essentially we’re trying to make it as easy as possible for your mantis to cope with its new disability. There are a number of ways we can do this…
Add Mesh or Netting
Praying mantis that are missing a leg or two can find it more difficult to get about; specifically to climb. This is especially so if you have only provided a few twigs for them to climb on.
A good solution is to add some fine netting to the inside of the cage. The goal is to cover at least one of the vertical walls, and also the top.
Mantis find it easy to climb up this insect netting, meaning they can get up off the ground if they fall, and move about their cage with minimal effort. This is crucial if your mantis is to successfully molt in the future.
Spray Near the Mantis
As praying mantis without limbs may not move around as easily, make sure drinking water is easily accessible.
This is simple enough to achieve; using a house plant mister just gently around the mantis every few days. The goal is to leave some droplets on or near the mantis, so they can easily drink from them without having to traipse across the cage for a drink.
Hand Feed from Forceps
Finally, consider offering your praying mantis live feeder insects from forceps. This makes it easier for your mantis to hunt, especially if they’ve lost one of their crucial front limbs.
It is recommended to use forceps to offer the insect to your mantis. It’s easier to get into tight spaces, it keeps your fingers out of harm’s way, and helps you securely grip the insect until your mantis takes it off you. Try gently waving the insect around close to your mantis, and watch the fun as they suddenly realize dinner is served!
As we have seen, a praying mantis losing a leg doesn’t necessarily have to be the end of the world. With luck and a little extra care from you the mantis should live a long and full life. However before we close off this topic it’s worth mentioning a few additional questions I’ve had over the years that relate to this topic.
Can Mantis Live Without a Head?
While a praying mantis may continue to move for a short time after losing their head, in reality this is a death sentence.
Praying mantis most commonly lose their head when mating. It is almost always the female that eats the male’s head during copulation. Oddly, when this occurs, mating typically continues, with the now-headless male continuing on for a short while afterwards. However this will be his last act. By the end he will likely be dead, dropping lifeless on the floor of the cage.
Can a Mantis Survive Without Its Back Legs?
A praying mantis can survive perfectly well without its back legs. While this is inconvenient for the mantis, it still has 2 more pairs of legs with which to get around.
The only potential difficulty comes at molting time. This is because praying mantis use these back legs to attach themselves to a twig or the roof of the cage, they then hang down vertically, split open their old skin, and essentially “slide” out of the skin.
A praying mantis without its back legs is therefore at an unfair disadvantage, though most manage to use their middle pair of legs instead. When your mantis finally goes off its food – indicating that a molt is coming up soon – pay extra attention in case your mantis needs any help during the process.
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