Is It Safe to Hold a Praying Mantis?

If you’ve been lucky enough to watch a praying mantis going about it’s day then an obvious question is: “is it safe to hold a praying mantis?”.

In this article we’re going to answer that exact question, and go into some specific do’s and don’ts. 

Before we get into the nitty gritty details the quick answer is “yes” – it is safe to hold a praying mantis. 

That said, we’d encourage you to read the remainder of this article to learn more about the process, and the risks involved with handling praying mantids. 

Safety Considerations

Wondering if it's safe to hold a praying mantis?

When it comes to safety around praying mantis there are two primary considerations. Firstly, is it safe for the praying mantis if I hold it? Secondly, it is safe for you?

Let’s examine both those questions in more details now.

Is It Safe for the Praying Mantis?

Praying mantis are pretty fragile insects. Incorrect handling can of course increase the chances of injuring the praying mantis. Done right, however, and holding a mantis should be perfectly safe. Just be sure to follow the steps outlined below to avoid harming the mantis you’re looking to handle. 

Is It Safe for Me?

Praying mantids are fearsome predators and come armed with a serious list of weapons. Most noticeable are the front legs, which are lined with sharp spines.

In addition to this praying mantis have surprisingly strong mandibles (mouth parts) which can cut straight through the tough exoskeleton of their insect prey.

Both of these can pose a potential risk if you choose to handle a mantis.

Understandably these are really the questions that most people want answering:

  • Do praying mantis bite?
  • Does it hurt if a praying mantis grabs me with its front legs?

Well, based on my 20+ years of keeping and breeding praying mantis let me try to answer both these questions for you now.

Do Praying Mantis Bite?

While praying mantis can bite, they generally only do so if they think you’re food (unlikely) or if they feel threatened and want to escape. So it is this second element that we need to avoid. Luckily that’s simple enough if you follow the guidance below.

In truth, I’ve never been bitten by a praying mantis when handling them properly. I’ve only ever had one or two try over the years as I was quickly grabbing them after seeing them in the wild. So if you’re respectful of your mantis then I don’t think you’re going to get bitten.

Does It Hurt If a Praying Mantis Grabs Me with Its Front Legs?

Just like being bitten, praying mantis generally don’t grab you with their spiny legs. In fact, a stressed praying mantis is more likely to either put on a threat display to try and scare you off, or simply to escape by either flying away or jumping off your hand. Again, it’s only when you grab at a mantis and it assumes you’re trying to eat it that it could try to fight back.

And as for whether those spines hurt? The answer is yes – but it’s not terrible. The bigger the mantis, the larger those spines and the strong the muscles that close them around your finger. Big mantis can draw blood if you’re unlucky.

But again – when you treat a praying mantis with respect this is very unlikely to happen. And we’re going to talk about how to handle a mantis properly next.

Richard Adams

1 thought on “Is It Safe to Hold a Praying Mantis?”

  1. Praying Mantids are pretty common where I live, and it’s not unusual to find them of respectable size. I’ve been fascinated with them since I was a child, and always (gently) held them when possible. I can’t say I’ve ever been bitten by one, though on one occasion, I did get to feel their sharp legs. Honestly, it didn’t feel like anything more than a pinch, and it certainly wasn’t enough to deter me from wanting to hold them.

    For such unique predators, I don’t consider them harmful to handle at all (assuming you handle them correctly and don’t hurt them). I even had one hang out with me for an extended period of time, perched up on my shoulder.

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