Praying mantis do eat mealworms, but they are far from the best feeder insect to give your pet mantis.
Most praying mantis hunt off the ground, up on their perch, sitting patiently on the wall of their cage or resting on a vertical piece of cork bark. As a result, feeder insects that naturally move up the cage towards the mantis are particularly good.
Mealworms, in contrast, remain on the ground of the cage and won’t actively try to climb up and into the clutches of your praying mantis.
A second reason why mealworms aren’t the best food for praying mantis is that they like to bury themselves in the substrate. This means that your mantis only has a very short space of time to spot and catch the mealworm before it disappears from view.
If it survives for long enough the mealworm will eventually turn into a pupae, then hatch out as an adult flour beetle. While flour beetles are herbivores, and so won’t eat your mantis, it could cause annoyance or irritation to a moulting praying mantis. Any mantis that is coming up to moult should have all feeder insects removed from their cage for safety.
Lastly, praying mantis need their prey to move around. An insect that sits motionless is unlikely to elicit a feeding response from your mantis.
Mealworms are not particularly active insects. They are quite slow moving, dull in color and will of course normally sit on the floor of the cage. This means that your praying mantis may not show the same level of enthusiasm as it might for other feeder insects.
Benefits of Mealworms for Praying Mantis
So far the message is that praying mantis will eat mealworms, but they may not be the best feeder insect. However it is also important here to discuss the benefits of mealworms to the mantis keeper.
Even though mealworms may not be the best food for your mantis, here are a few solid reasons why many mantis keepers still use them as part of the diet…
Easy to Handle
Unlike many other feeder insects, mealworms are super-simple to handle. Their tough and waxy exoskeleton means they feel less unpleasant to touch than some other feeder insects like waxworms. They’re slow moving. They’re unlikely to bite you. They won’t jump or run or fly away when you open up the tub. For the less experienced mantis keeper this can be a real benefit.
Mealworms are easy to keep alive. They have only modest requirements in captivity. Put them into a well-ventilated plastic container with some cereal as a substrate. Porridge oats work well.
The mealworms will burrow into the substrate and slowly eat it.
Then just place some slices of fresh fruit or veg on the surface so they have access to moisture. Potato and carrot are two of my favorites. In this way your mealworms will live a long and healthy life with the minimum of effort.
This is in contrast to some other feeder insects that may die soon after purchase, even with the best of care.
Additionally, mealworms can be placed into your refrigerator. This slows down their development and puts them into a sort of “suspended animation”. This will extend their lifespan even further.
Cheap to Buy
Mealworms are cheap to buy. Being easily cared-for and quite long-lived too, they’re a popular solution for keepers with only one or two mantids. It means you don’t need to constantly buy new tubs of feeder insects, after the old ones rapidly died. Mealworms are also therefore great for anyone on a budget.
Easy to Breed
Mealworms will breed easily in captivity. This means it’s possible to set up colonies that produce a never-ending supply of fresh, juicy mealworms. For anyone on a budget, or living somewhere where feeder insects are in short supply, this can be an added bonus.
Available in a Range of Sizes
Most mealworms you purchase from the pet store are roughly the same size. But if you choose to breed your own then you’ll be able to produce mealworms in a range of different sizes. The baby mealworms are absolutely tiny, and so can be used for even small juvenile mantis that might otherwise struggle to take down a standard-sized mealworm.
Tips for Feeding Mealworms to a Praying Mantis
If you decide to try feeding mealworms to your praying mantis then there are a few tips that can help to make your life easier.
Use a Bowl
Placing mealworms into a shallow plastic dish will reduce the chances of them burrowing into the substrate and disappearing from view. This makes it easier to manage your praying mantis around moulting time, as you can be sure there are no beetles lurking somewhere in the cage.
Raise Up the Bowl
Even better than a feeding dish placed on the floor of the cage, another option is to raise the dish up off the floor. There are feeding bowls available with suction cups, so they can be attached high up in the cage.
Another alternative is to use a hot glue gun and to stick a food bowl to a piece of cork bark or the side of the cage, so it’s easier for your mantis to reach.
Consider Hand Feeding
Some praying mantis keepers even try to offer the mealworms to their mantis directly. Rather than placing the mealworm into a bowl, instead pick it up with long forceps and place the mealworm in front of your mantis. Hopefully the mealworm will wriggle about, and your mantis will happily snatch the insect from you.
Try to always use forceps if you feed your mantis in this way. Offering a feeder insect directly from your fingers can result in you getting impaled. While not dangerous, it’s far from a pleasant experience.
What Else Do Praying Mantis Eat?
Mealworms aren’t the only creatures that praying mantis will eat of course. A huge range of feeder insects can be bought including roaches, crickets, locusts, waxworms, flies and more. All have their unique pros and cons for the mantis keeper.
Even if you opt to try feeding mealworms to your praying mantis it is worth mixing up their diet. By offering a broad range of different insects you can feel sure that your mantis is getting a full range of nutrients. Feeding just one kind of insect risks nutritional deficiencies, which can impact the health and longevity of your mantis.