Many people believe praying mantis look downright alien-like and scary. No wonder so many myths have sprung up around them over the years. But what really is the reality?
Many people wonder what praying mantis are actually good for. What is their purpose – and how do they benefit us humans?
Praying mantis serve two main benefits. FIrstly, they’re fantastic predators, picking off all sorts of garden and agricultural pests. Secondly, they themselves are a source of food for many larger animals that many of us love to see.
What Do Praying Mantis Eat?
Praying mantis will eat almost any live creature that they can successfully subdue. For the most part this means that praying mantis eat all sorts of invertebrates from around your garden. They do not, however, eat plants. So your cherished flowers and vegetables are perfectly safe from praying mantis.
In reality this means that praying mantis represent an excellent natural source of biological control. Praying mantis will eat caterpillars, grasshoppers, crickets and more, helping to protect your garden from insects that can otherwise cause issues.
Indeed, praying mantis are so good at eating insects and other invertebrates that can damage your garden that some gardeners deliberately release them. It is possible to buy praying mantis egg cases (known as oothecae) so they can be placed into a greenhouse
When the baby praying mantis hatch they will stalk any pests to be found among your beloved plants. This is not only a very time-efficient way to keep garden pests at bay, but also means fewer garden chemicals are needed to protect your plants.
What Eats Praying Mantis?
A praying mantis can represent a juicy meal to many larger animals. Many birds, bats and rodents will eat a fat praying mantis if they come across one.
While many people dislike praying mantis because they seem so “odd” many of us are far keener on a healthy, happy population of local birds and mammals. So leaving that praying mantis alone can help to accomplish this, supporting your local wildlife.
Are Praying Mantis Dangerous?
Praying mantis are not dangerous to people or most domestic pets. Praying mantis will not try to chase you down, nor will they attempt to attack you unless they themselves feel threatened. Indeed, if you’re gentle then a praying mantis might even be willing to walk slowly onto your hand and sit there observing you.
Of course, the situation is rather different if you’re a small insect, but that’s not what we’re talking about here 😉
So the reality is that praying mantis pose no danger to you, but instead offer all sorts of benefits in the garden and in nature more widely. The result is that there is really no benefit to harming or killing praying mantis, nor trying to scare them away from your garden.
Instead, praying mantis should simply be allowed to go about their day without interference. If anything we should be celebrating praying mantis for the good that they do to keep garden pests at bay throughout the spring, summer and early fall.
Do Praying Mantis Bite?
Praying mantis are capable of biting, but they will only try this if they feel threatened. Only if you grab at a praying mantis and hold it firmly in your hand may it try to bite in order to escape.
However a praying mantis won’t bite without cause. Praying mantis won’t bite you if you brush up against them in your garden or in nature. The praying mantis would far rather run or fly away and escape from you.
It is possible to gently coax a wild praying mantis onto your hand and it will sit there perfectly happily. It will not attempt to bite.
Even if a praying mantis does attempt to bite you then the bite of a praying mantis is not dangerous. Depending on the size of the mantis it may even fail to get through your skin. A praying mantis bite therefore might not even be painful.
Are Praying Mantis Poisonous?
Praying mantis have no poison or venom in them. They are perfectly safe to be around. Even a praying mantis that feels threatened and perhaps tries to bite you poses absolutely no health risk to us humans, and even to our most common household pets.
Subsequently there is no reason to be scared of praying mantis when you find them. Instead they can be observed from a reasonable distance. Enjoy their alien-like body, their big heads and their impressive compound eyes.
Ultimately, you’re best to leave any praying mantis you find to get on with their important task of dusting off pests from your garden, safe in the knowledge that they are not a risk to you or your children.