Can You Hold a Praying Mantis?

The alien-like appearance of praying mantis, and their ability to sit motionless for hours on end, has resulted in all manner of myths and legends surrounding them. Many of these relate to how praying mantis are dangerous, or even deadly. 

One of the most common questions asked is therefore “can you hold a praying mantis?” or is it simply too dangerous to consider?

The simple answer is that praying mantis can be held safely. They pose little or no danger to people, and can be gently coaxed onto your flat hand. 

How to Pick Up a Praying Mantis

mantis hand photo

When it comes to holding a praying mantis, the first crucial step is getting it onto your hand in the first place. The worst thing you can do is grab wildly at the insect. Under such circumstances the praying mantis is likely to think that it is being attacked and may react appropriately.

While praying mantis aren’t dangerous to people, if you want to hold a praying mantis it’s best to start off on the right foot. If you don’t then the praying mantis will be looking for ways to avoid you, or to escape from your clutches.

The key to picking up a praying mantis is remaining calm and peaceful throughout. Ideally you want the mantis to walk calmly onto your hand without feeling threatened in any way. 

If you spot a praying mantis moving about in your garden then you can place your hand in front of it. The mantis is likely to continue moving forward and so will run onto your hand. More likely, however, the praying mantis will be sitting motionless waiting for an unfortunate prey insect to come within reach.

For best results slowly and gently place a flat hand, palm upwards, just in front of the mantis. Don’t move too quickly or you could spook the mantis.

Once the one hand is in place, gently coax the praying mantis by stroking it’s back legs or the rear end of the mantis with your other hand. The praying mantis should react by moving away from the stroking sensation, and in doing so will step gently onto your flat hand.  

How to Hold Praying Mantis

Holding a praying mantis that is already on your hand is quite simple. Many will sit motionless and can simply be admired. It is safe to move your flat hand around to get a better look if you do so gently and quietly.

Just as likely, however, the praying mantis will start to move across your hand. In these cases you may need to let the mantis run onto your other palm, routinely swapping hands as the mantis reaches the edge.

Once you’re ready to release the praying mantis a similar process can be followed. Place your hand near a suitable perch – such as a twig – and gently stroke the back end or rear legs of the mantis. It should then move forward onto the perch at which point you can remove your hand. 

Related:  Are Praying Mantises Good Pets?

Can a Praying Mantis Hurt You?

Praying mantis may look like fearsome predators but they are little danger to people. Generally a praying mantis would far rather run (or fly) away and escape than they would stand and fight.

Praying mantis do have tough mandibles (mouth parts) but these are rarely used to attack people. Only if the praying mantis is grabbed roughly and feels threatened may it try to bite. 

The bigger worry are the heavily-spined front legs. Again, there is a slight risk that a stressed praying mantis may try to grab a finger with these front legs. However even this is pretty unlikely if you’re gentle with the praying mantis. 

Furthermore, unless you’re trying to hold a huge praying mantis then even being grabbed by the praying mantis’ front legs is unlikely to be too painful or to draw blood. 

Praying mantis have no venom of any kind, nor can they spit or spray noxious fluids at you. 

As a result it is fair to conclude that a praying mantis cannot really hurt you, except in a tiny minority of exceptional cases where the mantis may feel like it’s life is at risk. And to be fair, we’d all lash out at a potential predator if we were in a similar situation.

Treat the praying mantis with the respect it deserves and you can safely hold a praying mantis without any concerns about your health. 

Tips for Holding a Praying Mantis

Praying mantis can be surprisingly active insects, bearing in mind how often they’re found sitting motionless for long periods of time. 

Praying mantis can also move reasonably quickly. This is especially so for smaller praying mantis. This makes sense of course – a baby praying mantis is at far greater risk of being eaten by other animals, so it pays to be quick.

One tip when holding a praying mantis is therefore to keep your wits about you. Be ready with your other hand at any time so you can control where the mantis goes. 

The fact that praying mantis can run quite quickly also means you’ll want to reduce the chances of harming the mantis if it falls. It’s best to sit down, or to hold the mantis over a soft surface like a carpet or sofa. That way if the mantis leaps off your hand then it shouldn’t fall too far, and should have a nice cushioned landing.

The next tip when holding a praying mantis is that they tend to migrate slowly to the highest place possible. This means rather than running across your hands like a hamster, they may instead start trying to climb up your arm towards your shoulder. 

While a praying mantis perched on your shoulder isn’t the end of the world, many people suddenly lose their nerve as the mantis bolts ever closer to their face. 

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If you find yourself in a similar situation then be ready to either block the mantids’ path with your other hand. Alternatively, raising your arm above your head can also help, as suddenly the tallest possible perch isn’t your shoulder, but the very arm they’re sitting on right now.

Lastly, be aware that adult praying mantis can fly. There is always a risk, therefore, that your mantis could choose to take flight. If you’re holding a wild praying mantis you may see them disappear into long grass never to be seen again. This is disappointing but hardly the end of the world. There will be more praying mantis along soon enough.

If you are a pet owner, however, you may want to take greater care. When holding your mantis aim to keep doors and windows closed so you mantis can’t make a break for freedom. Additionally, keep other domestic pets such as dogs well out of the way. You don’t want your mantis flying off towards your dog, only for your pooch to snap them up as a tasty treat. 

Do Praying Mantis Like Being Held?

Praying mantis do not like to be held. They would far rather be left alone to sit motionless waiting for a tasty prey insect to come too close. Therefore it would be a mistake to assume that you have to handle your pet praying mantis. 

Praying mantis do not get “tame” and won’t get used to their owners. Nor will they develop any kind of bond or look forward to contact with you. 

The best that you can hope for is that your praying mantis will tolerate you and your occasional handling. What’s more, done gently and calmly, there is no reason to think that your mantis is in any real danger. Just accept that holding a praying mantis is solely for your pleasure – the mantis itself will derive no benefits from being held by you. 

Richard Adams

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